Path to War

BEYOND THE BATTLEFIELDS OF VIETNAM. INSIDE THE HALLS OF POWER. A DIFFERENT KIND OF WAR WOULD DECIDE THE FATE OF A NATION.

pathtowarDirector John Frankenheimer’s last film is an impressive TV drama about those fatal steps toward the Vietnam War that were taken by President Lyndon B. Johnson and his administration. Johnson was focusing on his “Great Society”, but there was no escaping the trouble brewing in Vietnam, especially as his Secretary of Defense argued in favor of bombing the North. The exhaustive, believable teleplay shows how difficult it is to do the right thing and how no one escapes the burden of responsibility. Michael Gambon is very forceful as the Texan who tries to step out of Kennedy’s shadow.

2002-U.S. Made for TV. 165 min. Color. Produced by Guy Riedel. Directed by John Frankenheimer. Teleplay: Daniel Giat. Cast: Michael Gambon (Lyndon B. Johnson), Donald Sutherland (Clark Clifford), Alec Baldwin (Robert McNamara), Bruce McGill, Frederic Forrest, Felicity Huffman… Sarah Paulson, Tom Skerritt, J.K. Simmons. Cameo: Gary Sinise.

Trivia: Sinise plays Governor George Wallace, just as he did in the 1997 miniseries.

Golden Globe: Best Supporting Actor (Sutherland).

Last word: “I continually stressed to the cast, ‘Let’s not be overwhelmed by our sense of history. Let’s not try to make an important film in quotation marks. Let’s make an interesting, vital, dramatic film.” (Frankenheimer, “John Frankenheimer: Interviews, Essays, and Profiles”)

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