Directed by: Eugene Jarecki
Premise: A documentary film about the development what President Eisenhower referred to as “the military industrial complex” and how the creation of a huge standing military and the business infrastructure to sustain it has manipulated American foreign policy.
What Works: This is a smart documentary that scores points with an approach that balances ethos, pathos, and logos appeals. Where many of these kinds of films go awry by applying too much of any one of these rhetorical appeals, Why We Fight uses different storylines for a crossover effect that makes the final product bigger than the sum of the parts. The film charts the course of the military industrial complex from the end of World War II through the present Iraq War and the filmmakers have some opinions about these conflicts. This is a documentary with a political point of view, but it adequately supports that point of view and challenges it by including voices on the other side of the debate. Why We Fight also delivers as a piece of entertainment, using smart editing techniques, creating engaging narratives, and using unusual music choices that elevate the film above many other documentaries.
What Doesn’t: The film does run a little long in places, mostly in scenes dwelling on the Iraq conflict.
DVD extras: Commentary track, extra scenes, character featurettes, Q&A with the filmmaker, Daily Show and Charlie Rose TV appearances, trailers.
Bottom Line: Why We Fight is an important documentary and one that is very entertaining. The film’s arguments are solid and urgent, and the picture is able to make them in very engaging ways.
Episode: #117 (November 12, 2006)