Full disclosure: I'm starting to write this at the 41 minute mark of the documentary (it's 103 minutes long). I'm not enthralled. Although Jack Kennedy just came on screen so that got my attention for a minute. Ok, Lyndon Johnson is on--back to writing and watching simultaneously.
I think this is an important film in that it presents a crucial argument and did so at a time in our history when that argument was especially unpopular. Telling Americans that we're sticking our noses in things that are none of our business and are headed for a giant clusterfuck of a no-win war and political situation is a bold move. It never goes over well. Never. And it is especially pertinent considering our recent history of sticking our noses in things that are none of our business and creating a giant clusterfuck of a no-win war and political situation--seems good 'ol W. has never seen this film. Surprise.
The film is also a carefully edited and subtle argument. This one isn't going to knock you over the head and then scream the argument at you while shoving flash cards with key points in your face. You actually have to pay a certain amount of attention not only to content but to tone. The doc. makers are obviously not endorsing many of the people who speak in the film and it's up to the audience to carefully discern irony. This is something more contemporary political doc. makers could learn from. Ahem, cough, Michael Moore, cough. Oh! Wait! Maybe W. did see the film and thought "the sooner that we hit everything we can and hurt 'em over there we gotta a better chance to win that war and that's exactly what we should do in my opinion" was super advice.
The source of my discontent with the film lies solely in my particular focus in scholarship (when I did scholarship): terrorism in 20th century American literature with 9/11 as the pivot point. So I'm thoroughly steeped in this argument because, surprise, 35-ish years after this documentary when I was writing my dissertation, artists of all sorts were making these same arguments, albeit in color. So, perhaps especially because I'm not particularly knowledgeable about Vietnam, I'm watching this film through the lens of my 9/11 research and I'm finding it too-similar a source to make use of. "There were no torpedoes fired" rings eerily similar to "there were no WMDs." But, alas, the people who promulgate these clusterfuck no-win situations are not the people who would learn from this film (especially given the French origin when we're talking about post 9/11 enlightenment--as Athelas noted "Freedom fries indeed"), or the terrorism information I'm more familiar with--hence the unfortunate repetition of history.
So, thumbs down for me but thumbs way up high for inclusion in the list.