Path to War [2002]

The quagmire that was the Vietnam War comes to vivid life in this HBO film--not in the jungles of Southeast Asia, but in the offices of the White House, where a disastrous U.S. policy was forged. From Lyndon Johnson's landslide 1964 victory to his weary withdrawal from the 1968 race, Path to War charts the disappearance of LBJ's "Great Society" domestic dreams into the bramble patch of war. The bungled decisions are forcefully directed by John Frankenheimer, whose expertise at political intrigue shines in his final film. Donald Sutherland and Alec Baldwin do some of their best work in years (as Clark Clifford and Robert McNamara), although the great actor Michael Gambon, while impressive, doesn't quite capture the honey lilt of LBJ's beguiling style. Among the many superb scenes: Johnson intimidating an outmatched George Wallace (an unbilled Gary Sinise, re-creating a role from another Frankenheimer HBO film) on civil rights. --Robert Horton

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