Thursday, February 18, 2010

Movie with Abe: The Most Dangerous Man in America

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
Directed by Judith Ehrlich & Rick Goldsmith
Released February 5, 2010

Any movie with a title like “The Most Dangerous Man in America” purports to be about a subject of great importance. What’s particularly wonderful about this film is that it’s marvelously tongue-in-cheek. The line comes from a quote spoken by Henry Kissinger, classifying Dr. Daniel Ellsberg as a threat that needed to be stopped. Ellsberg is the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press, and it’s no surprise that the government considered him a menace. Part of what’s mesmerizing about one of this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Documentary Feature is the excitement with which the protagonist and his cohorts hurtle towards changing the course of American history and foreign policy.

“The Most Dangerous Man in America” is a chronicle of the events leading up to the release of the Pentagon Papers, but it’s first and foremost a biography of the man. He’s humorously described by his future wife as a dangerous man, a lady killer of sorts, in addition to his obvious decision to leak top secret documents to the public. Ellsberg’s life up until that point is covered in detail, and he even draws a fascinating parallel between the death of his mother and sister when he was fifteen due to his father falling asleep at the wheel and his understanding of the fact that even the most seemingly trustworthy people still need to be carefully watched.

Like last year’s fabulous documentary “Man on Wire,” this film poses itself as a crime caper where the main actors get delight from the revolutionary and radical decisions they make and actions they undertake. It’s an exciting thriller that gains its suspense and intrigue from the expressions on the faces of the interview subjects and a comprehension of the gravity of the situation. The scathing critique of the administration as told by Ellsberg and the people who worked and interacted with him paints four presidents as villains, offering up an extraordinarily compelling analysis of the path to war and misconduct of government. It’s applicable and highly relevant to the current never-ending crisis and misguided war in the United States today, but the comparisons make themselves rather than being explicitly stated by the interview subjects. What is most powerful about the story of the Most Dangerous Man in America is the narration not by some celebrity but by the man himself, Daniel Ellsberg, now in his late seventies and just as passionate as ever about making a difference in this life. Hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth makes all the difference in the world.


No comments: