In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg, a former Marine, Pentagon employee and military analyst, performed one of the most daring whistle-blowing acts of the century: Leaking ex-employer Rand Corp.'s copies of the top-secret Pentagon Papers to the New York Times (and subsequently other major dailies) in order to expose the truth -- or, more specifically, the lies -- behind America’s longtime involvement in the Vietnam conflict. The gripping story of how hawk-turned-dove Ellsberg’s explosive actions circuitously led to the impeachment of Richard Nixon and, in turn, an end to the Vietnam War is comprehensively detailed in Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith’s evocative documentary “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.”
Fortunately, the staunchly committed and controversial Ellsberg, now 78, is still around to tell his history-making tale, and he lends the film gravitas as both its persuasive narrator and primary talking head. Cogent interviews with journalists, lawyers, historians and other surviving Pentagon Papers players augment Ellsberg’s chronicle, with a wide array of archival photos and news footage providing vital visual support. Parallels to more recent U.S. military imbroglios, though judiciously low-key here, are eerily evident.
But it is the audio from the infamous Nixon tapes, in which the then-president rails in monstrous fashion against Ellsberg, that supplies the film’s most chilling -- and perversely entertaining -- moments.
‘The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers’
MPAA rating: Unrated
Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Playing: At Laemmle’s Monica 4-Plex, Santa Monica