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Path to War
Path to War
Actors: Michael Gambon, Donald Sutherland, Alec Baldwin, Bruce McGill, James Frain
Director: John Frankenheimer
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Television
UR     2003     2hr 45min

PATH TO WAR tells the inside story of how "the best and the brightest" advisors in the Johnson administration, including Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and special advisor Clark Clifford, counsel the President in the de...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Michael Gambon, Donald Sutherland, Alec Baldwin, Bruce McGill, James Frain
Director: John Frankenheimer
Creators: John Frankenheimer, Cary Brokaw, Edgar J. Scherick, Guy Riedel, Howard Dratch, Shirley Davis, Daniel Giat
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Television
Sub-Genres: John Frankenheimer, Drama, All Made-for-TV Movies
Studio: HBO Video
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Dubbed,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 03/25/2003
Original Release Date: 05/18/2002
Theatrical Release Date: 05/18/2002
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 2hr 45min
Screens: Color,Full Screen,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English, Spanish, French
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

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Member Movie Reviews

Sonia T. (Sunny) from TOLLAND, CT
Reviewed on 5/2/2010...
I watched this on TV back when it came out and loved it, then lost the video I made. I've been watching it with my daughter and she is enjoying it too. It brings back many memories of that time. I highly recommend it.

Movie Reviews

Path to War
Steven Hellerstedt | 04/16/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"THE PATH TO WAR is John Frankenheimer's biography of the Vietnam War, told through the prism of the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. The movie, director Frankenheimer's last, was produced and released in 2002 as the United States was preparing to launch a war against Iraq. As such it serves as a cautionary tale with a strong political point of view - the message is simple and strong: Even the best and the brightest can be blinded by optimism, and a quagmire once entered is not easily left.
THE PATH TO WAR spends a great deal of time in cabinet meetings. This is a political drama pitting special advisor Clark Clifford (Donald Sutherland) against Defense Secretary Robert McNamara (Alec Baldwin) in battle for the heart and mind of President Johnson (Michael Gambon). Clifford is the Dove, the main player advocating restraint and caution viz. Vietnam, while McNamara Hawkishly counsels a steady buildup of American forces. At first English actor Gambon seemed an odd choice for the role of Texas-born Johnson. He fits the part physically, and he's the right age, but his west Texas accent is a bit off the mark. Not terribly off, but he doesn't nail it either. Johnson is a familiar television presence from my youth and his heavy drawl must have made a deep impression. In any event, it was distracting for a while, but Gambon is such a strong actor, and otherwise so right for the part that I stopped worrying about it after a while.
Frankenheimer was a personal friend of Johnson's arch-foe Robert Kennedy, and a generation ago Frankenheimer might have treated Johnson as a bit more of a political monster. Indeed, Johnson the politician could play rough. In one early scene, Johnson gives the mailed-fist-in-the-velvet-glove treatment to Alabama Governor George Wallace (Gary Sinise) when Wallace threatens Johnson's civil rights' initiatives. Later, when speech writer Dick Goodwin (James Frain), the man who `put the music' in Johnson's speeches, tells Johnson that he's leaving to accept a fellowship, Johnson, in the space of perhaps three minutes, bribes, cajoles, and ultimately threatens Goodwin into staying. Still, the ultimate impression of Johnson is of a man whose presidency was ruined because of a misplaced reliance on advisors rather than an innate blood lust. The villains in THE PATH TO WAR are arrogance, an overestimation of America's military capabilities, and a woeful underestimation of North Vietnam's willingness to engage in a prolonged and costly war. The worst player in this cast turns out to be McNamara, who is partly redeemed by his doubts at the end.
THE PATH TO WAR is a very good HBO movie. There aren't many extras on the disk. The making of and cast interviews are very short - three or four minutes per extra - and not terribly informative or insightful. Still, a very strong recommendation for this one.
The last great film of John Frankenheimer
Michael Trevino | Austin, TX USA | 04/15/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Being a huge John Frankenheimer fan, this movie was on my list to see for some time since I don't have HBO. Overall, I wasn't expecting too much from this movie, somehow I have that perception with all made-for-tv movies. The movie certainly has that feel in the first few minutes, with acting that seems a bit forced and wooden. But as the story progressed, I slowly got pulled into the situation and characters of all involved. By the time the movie was over, I was impressed with the portrait provided of LBJ as a troubled man who wanted to do so much for the country, but was held back with a stalemate war. It's expertly directed by Frankenheimer, with his classic visual style that exudes tension with facial close-ups. Gambon does a pretty good job too, although most of his acting in this movie falls into the `concerned man' and the `screaming and yelling man' episodes; it still shows the bi-polar sources pulling at him. It resonates a bit with the current tensions and war in Iraq (some of this is mentioned in the bonus features), but it still carves out its own identity; when was the last time a President talked about a Great Society? It makes me wonder how significant of a President Johnson could have been (many books defer to this position as well, almost worthy of a place on Mt. Rushmore). But as a youngster, most of the Presidents I've been alive to experience are focused more on cautious outlooks than on civil progression and visionary goals. Of course its all easier said than done, but it seems to me the era visionaries has ceased with Johnson's statement not run for a second term in office.I know very little of the historic values of past Presidents, but it's a genre I enjoy experiencing in the movies and television. If you watch the West Wing on a regular basis, or just enjoy movies with historical facts and situations (13 days, JFK, All the Presidents Men), then you'll enjoy this movie. I expected little, and I got a home run in return. I think it's a great movie that concludes Frankenheimer's career. I like his work a lot, and he will be missed. It should be noted that the movie is not 4x3 full frame format. Instead it's in 16x9, anamorphic format; and the transfer I would rate as `good' but not exceptional."
Vietnam War - The Inner Machinations
Stargazer | St.Kilda, Victoria Australia | 08/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I hadn't seen this film before the DVD arrived in my letterbox - the name of the Director John Frankenheimer was what originally caught my attention plus it was about Vietnam and the war of my generation.
When the war broke out I remember my father saying it was "an unwinnable war" and of course I had no idea what he meant - he who had served in the AIF in New Guinea in WW11. And so it became obvious watching this brilliant HBO film that with the best will in the world President Johnson and his cohorts had no comprehension of what they were getting into either. It was only later when the reports came back describing how villagers cycled down to a stricken train to help unload it (the lines had been destroyed by US bombing) and painstakingly moved the items on board the train to handlebars of bicycles to be ferried to another train further down the line. How they built devices across rivers to replace blown up bridges, and how they determinedly went on with their lives as best they could that the White House staff realised with growing alarm that they could be in this war forever.
Johnson himself comes across as a man under enormous pressure, much of it caused by his insecurity and self doubts. The rest of course was brought upon him by the Vietnam war,which wrecked his health and eventually him destroyed him.
This is an excellent, accurate portrayal of the machinations of Vietnam as I remember it, and it paints a picture of men trying to grapple with a war they don't understand, fearful of defeat (unthinkable) the escalating cost and Johnson's programmes to help the poor and Civil Rights in danger of being lost as the national budget is blown to smithereens.
Micahel Gambon was magnificent as LBJ, as was Donald Sutherland.
The film is engrossing from beginning to end, in fact the whole DVD package is a must have in my opinion."