Path to War (TV)
- Original title
Path to War (TV)
- Running time
- 165 min.
- United States
Philip Baker Hall,
Drama | Politics. Biography. Vietnam War. 1960s. TV Movie
- Movie Groups
U.S. Presidents (Biopics)
- Official Site
- Synopsis / Plot
- The future looks bright for President Lyndon B. Johnson [Michael Gambon] on January 20, 1965. At his inaugural ball, the President and Lady Bird Johnson [Felicity Huffman] celebrate in grand Texas style with his family and members of his star-studded cabinet (some holdovers from the administration of predecessor John F. Kennedy), including Defense Secretary Robert McNamara [Alec Baldwin], special advisor Clark Clifford [Donald Sutherland], Secretary of State Dean Rusk [John Aylward], Under Secretary of State George Ball [Bruce McGill], Special Assistant for National Security Affairs McGeorge Bundy [Cliff DeYoung], and special assistants Jack Valenti [John Valenti], Bill Moyers [Chris Eigeman] and Dick Goodwin [James Frain]. But over the course of the next four years, these men will witness Johnson's glorious domestic agenda being undermined by a small Southeast Asian country: Vietnam.
Since the end of World War II, when Ho Chi Minh declared the entire nation independent from French colonial rule, Vietnam has been in a state of ongoing warfare. Armed conflict over who was going to govern persisted throughout the late 1940s into the early '60s, but the number of American military advisors remained small. By 1965, however, as it became clear that the South Vietnamese army was no match for the determination of the Vietcong, more and more American men were sent to Vietnam -- with more and more funds needed to support them.
As Johnson struggles to find the best and quickest way to win a war he didn't start, his advisors argue vehemently about the pros and cons of bombing North Vietnamese targets in retaliation for Vietcong offensives, a gradually escalating strategy labeled "Rolling Thunder." In these meetings, anti-escalation advocates like Clifford and Ball are regularly pitted against McNamara, a Kennedy carryover who finds himself witnessing such horrific anti-war incidents as a protester setting himself on fire outside McNamara's Pentagon office.
The eventual failure of Rolling Thunder and other military operations proves devastating for the President, as it becomes clear that Ho Chi Minh is determined to win a military victory, and that defeating the Vietcong will require far more soldiers, time and money than the American public will endure. In addition to turning the American public against the President, the war also diverts funds intended for critical domestic programs, and Johnson's influence with supporters like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. [Curtis McClarin], is severely diminished. By the time freshman Senator Robert F. Kennedy denounces the war -- Johnson bitterly observes RFK had supported the Vietnam initiatives as his brother's Attorney General -- and announces his candidacy for president in 1968, Johnson knows that the war in unwinnable. His ability to govern the nation has been crippled, and his dream of the Great Society will remain unrealized.
PATH TO WAR recreates the intense, emotional meetings among Johnson and other key figures that begin with the President's reluctant decision to adopt the Rolling Thunder strategy, and continue through the end of his tortured administration. Held at the White House, the Pentagon and Camp David, these meetings take a huge toll on the President, and end up dividing his cabinet. By the end of his term, McNamara, Ball, Bundy and Goodwin have all left the administration -- and a worn and defeated Johnson stuns the nation with the announcement of his decision not to seek reelection.
: Emmy: 8 Nominations, Including Best TV Movie and Actor (Michael Gambon)
: Golden Globes: Best Supporting Actor in TV Picture (Sutherland). 4 nominations
: Producers Guild Awards (PGA): Nominated for Best TV Movie
: Directors Guild of America (DGA): Nominated for Best Director (Miniseries/TV Movie)
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