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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The War Room
The War Room
Universal // PG // October 5, 2004
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Shannon Nutt | posted October 9, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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THE MOVIE

The War Room is a fantastic documentary that looks at Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign from the eyes of two of its most important people: Director of Communications George Stephanopoulos and Campaign Manager James Carville.

The documentary begins during the New Hampshire Democratic Primary, when Clinton was running behind in the polls and had just been hit with the accusations by Gennifer Flowers regarding an affair. The movie takes us all the way through the election, mostly concentrating on the behind the scenes planning in "The War Room" – where Stephanopoulos and Carville both plot strategy against the Bush campaign and fend off attacks on their own candidate.

What makes The War Room so enjoyable is that most of the people in it seem totally oblivious to the cameras being on them. This results in letting us see Clinton's campaign staff in their purest form – as well as seeing Clinton himself in many behind-the-scenes moments.

Carville proves to be the real star of the movie though, coming up with some of the best slogans and speeches that Clinton uses during the campaign; getting angry and frustrated when dealing with the press; and breaking down in a genuinely moving speech at the end of the campaign that he gives to all the staff workers on their final day.

The War Room serves as a permanent historical document of how campaigns for President were changed. It was one of the first times that an incumbent President lost because his opponent refused to go negative and kept the focus of the debate on the issues and his vision for the country. Time will tell if history will be able to repeat itself in the 2004 debate (it's no secret that much of John Kerry's style and strategy is molded directly from Clinton's two winning campaigns), but if The War Room teaches politicians a lesson, the lesson is that the American public doesn't want rhetoric and personal attacks from their President – they want leadership and vision. And my guess is it will be the candidate who offers the most of the latter, not the former, who will win the majority of Presidential elections in the 21st century.

THE DVD

Video:
Most of the grain and dirt you'll see on this print (and there is a good deal of it) is obviously from the film and not the transfer to DVD. So while the overall video quality isn't fantastic, this disc provides us with the best possible presentation of The War Room we're likely to see. The movie is presented full frame, although I'm not sure if it was shot this way or not. The beginning of the film tells us that the picture has been formatted to fit the screen, but I think maybe this is an error on Universal's part and that this is indeed the movie's original aspect ratio.

Audio:
The audio is presented in 2.0 Dolby, which is more than serviceable for a documentary of this type. Voices are clear and crisp, and there's no evidence of "popping" or "scratching" that one often hears with documentaries of this sort.

Extras
I really would have enjoyed a commentary track – particularly if they could have gotten either Carville or Stephanopoulos to participate. Instead, all we get is a short, but new, Filmmaker Introduction from directors Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker. I'm also a little surprised that the theatrical trailer was not put on this release.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Despite a lack of effort in the extras material, The War Room is a great documentary about the political process that I highly recommend. No serious student of politics or history should be without this DVD in their collection.
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