The Pentagon Papers
Length: 92 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 English Surround
English Subtitles, Closed Captioned
Special Features: None
SRP: None. Expected retail: $20US
In 1971, U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell tried to stop The New York Times and The Washington Post from publishing parts of The Pentagon’s classified war study on Vietnam. The Nixon administration claimed that publication of the so-called Pentagon Papers would compromise national security. The newspapers and Daniel Ellsberg insisted that the document posed no risk to national security, and that the people of America had the right to know what was contained in the document. Ellsberg was a former U.S. Marine, former Pentagon Researcher, author of parts of the 7000 page document in question, and the source of the leak of the document to the press.
The Supreme Court, in a landmark decision that every journalism student is familiar with, sided with the press, and blocked the government’s attempt to stop the presses by prior restraint.
Ellsberg still stood trial for treason for his leak of the document.
This film follows Daniel Ellsberg from the early 1960’s from his earliest intelligence work for the Rand Corporation, through a tour in Vietnam as an observer, to the early 1970’s and the final resolution of his case.
The Pentagon Papers is based on the true story of Daniel Ellsberg. It is a compelling film in the same spirit of All the President’s Men and The Insider. The film was made for cable, as an FX Network original. Production values are high in this straight-to-cable film, and there is plenty of star power, as well. James Spader stars as Daniel Ellsberg. The film also stars Paul Giamatti, Claire Forlani and Alan Arkin. It is a well made film, and a must see for any fan of political drama.
The Pentagon Papers is in full-screen format - and that is the original aspect ratio as it first aired on the FX Network. The non-enhanced video is sharp, with no evidence of ringing. Stylistic choices in photography dictate varying amounts of grain, and some scenes where the film is intentionally overexposed, blowing out highlights. But, all in all, the picture looks as intended - it looks good. Video also switches from warm tones to cool tones, and occasionally to black and white. these are all stylistic choices and not a fault of the transfer. The film looks much as I recall its original broadcast.
The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0. Scenes in Vietnam are remarkably enveloping, even without a 5.1 soundtrack. Dialog is always crystal clear, and always intelligible. For a 2.0 soundtrack, this sounds pretty good - but those yearning for immersive 5.1 will not find it here.
There are no special features. This is a bare-bones release. Too bad, in a way. This film screams for a companion documentary on the subject.
This film is easily overlooked, given its made for cable origins. If you like political drama like All the President’s Men, you owe it to yourself to check this one out. It may be missing a 5.1 soundtrack... and a short documentary on the subject could have been interesting... but this one is still worth a look.