Watch Path to War
- 2 hr 45 min
Path to War is a 2002 HBO film that chronicles the events leading up to the American engagement in the Vietnam War. The movie is directed by John Frankenheimer and written by Daniel Giat, and it stars Michael Gambon, Donald Sutherland, and Alec Baldwin in major roles. The film opens in 1964, with President Lyndon B. Johnson (Gambon) campaigning for re-election against Senator Barry Goldwater. Johnson is portrayed as a shrewd politician who is keenly attuned to public opinion and determined to avoid any action that might jeopardize his chances at the polls. However, events in Southeast Asia soon force Johnson to confront the reality of the situation on the ground.
The first major crisis comes in the form of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which North Vietnamese boats allegedly attack an American destroyer. In response, Johnson authorizes air strikes against North Vietnam and asks Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which grants him broad military powers. From here, the movie traces the gradual escalation of the war, as Johnson sends more troops and resources to Vietnam in an effort to contain the communist threat.
Along the way, we meet a cast of characters who play key roles in the decision-making process. One of the most prominent is Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Sutherland), who is portrayed as a brilliant technocrat who is convinced that America can win the war if it applies the right strategies. However, McNamara's condescending attitude and stubbornness make him a lightning rod for criticism and a source of tension between him and the rest of Johnson's cabinet.
Another figure who features prominently is General William Westmoreland (Baldwin), the commander of American forces in Vietnam. Westmoreland is depicted as an ambitious and determined leader who believes that victory is within reach if the U.S. just keeps pouring in more resources. However, his fixation on body counts and his blindness to the realities on the ground make him a source of frustration for everyone around him.
As the war drags on, Johnson becomes increasingly estranged from his advisors and the American public. He resents the fact that he has been forced to abandon many of his domestic policy initiatives in order to focus on Vietnam, and he is frustrated by the lack of progress on the battlefield. However, he is also determined not to be seen as weak or indecisive, and he refuses to withdraw American forces from Vietnam despite mounting criticism.
The film culminates in the 1968 Tet Offensive, a massive surprise attack by North Vietnamese forces that shocks the American public and forces Johnson to rethink his strategy. At this point, he begins to consider the possibility of negotiating a peace settlement, but it's too little, too late, and the war drags on for several more years before the U.S. finally withdraws.
Overall, Path to War is a thoughtful and nuanced look at a defining moment in American history. The movie eschews simplistic explanations or heroic narratives in favor of a more complex and realistic portrayal of the events that led to the Vietnam War. The performances are uniformly excellent, with Gambon, Sutherland, and Baldwin all delivering powerful and nuanced portrayals of real-life figures. Whether you're a history buff or simply interested in great filmmaking, Path to War is well worth your time.
Path to War is a 2002 drama with a runtime of 2 hours and 45 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.3.