This fascinating documentary looks back on a tumultuous era, one in which the US was fighting an ill-advised war in Vietnam, civil rights protests were constant newsmakers, and younger people were forcing radical changes in American pop culture.
John Lennon, the ex-Beatle, wanted to live in this country, and could not help but speak out against the actions of the US government, particularly their war in Vietnam. This got him into considerable trouble with the Nixon Administration, which was working to rescind Lennon's visa and deport him.
The U.S. vs John Lennon not only captures Lennon's commentary on how he was being watched and his lengthy legal battle, but also recounts how John and Yoko Ono cleverly used their fame to gain attention for the peace movement.
A host of prominent people weigh in on these past events, and the one who retains his character the best is G. Gordon Liddy, who was almost too good to be true; he is still completely unrepentent about everything he did, even sneeringly telling the audience how he once happened upon a candlelit war protest and took the opportunity to light his cigar with one of the flames. In my opinion, one of the selling parts of this film is watching Liddy cluelessly make a fool of himself.
Then, there is the issue of Richard Nixon's paranoia. Why was he so afraid of one ex-Beatle? Nixon lived in fear that celebrities might be able to influence the public against him, but John's high profile singing and protesting did not prevent Nixon from winning in a landslide in 1972. Of course, this isn't the most famous example of Nixon's paranoia, but it is very interesting.
John Lennon's message is every bit as relevant now as it was then. If he were alive, he'd have a lot to say, not just about the war in Iraq and The Patriot Act, but about the prejudice and misunderstandings that still permeate our culture in many ways. John once conducted a press conference while hiding under a sheet, because he wanted people listen to him objectively, without preconceptions. He laughed about how the reporters were so disappointed, saying things like, "but I've never seen a Beatle!"
It is still a challenge to find objectivity because we need more people who care about finding it.