Documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker (Don't Look Back) and Chris Hegedus shot behind-the-scenes at command central for Bill Clinton's 1992 election campaign and came up with this film. You won't find the kind of daily dam... more »age-control and skirt-chasing indirectly alleged in Primary Colors, but the filmmakers do give us a strong sense of the uphill battle of a presidential campaign. The center of the film is really James Carville, who steered the machine for Clinton's '92 run and who comes across in this film as a deeply passionate, complex, and somehow timeless man who could have fit into any chapter of American history. --Tom Keogh« less
Carville & Stephanopoulos run the Clinton War Room in '92
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 08/29/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This celebrated documentary provides a bird's eye view into the inner sanctum of Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus spent three weeks shot 33 hours of film, which was later combined with news footage to capture the cause-and-effect relationship between what happened inside "The War Room" and the election of the president. There is no voice over narration to this documentary, just clips spliced together. The dynamic behind it all is the Fire and Ice duo of chief Clinton strategist James Carville and director of communications George Stephanopoulos. Of course, both titles are gross simplifications of their roles in the campaign, and it is impossible not to see "The War Room" as being one of the inspirations for "The West Wing." What stands out in watching this documentary is the complete sense that this is what it was really like, which, in the end, is more impressive than the fact that these guys won the election. Here you get to see the infamous Clinton "quick response" strategy at work, where every attack by the opponent is crushed in an immediate barrage of rhetoric. For me the most memorable sequences were when the Clinton brain trust discover the Bush-Quayle campaign is having its campaign signs printed in Brazil rather than in the U.S., Carville becomes emotional in the final staff meeting of the Clinton War Room, and when he and Stephanopoulos find themselves unsure as to how they are supposed to address the man who is now the president-elect.From the perspective of today it is interesting to compare the Carville and Stephanopoulos we see behind closed doors with their more public personas as talking heads. The Jim and Mary (Matlin) traveling road show that keeps Carville in the political spotlight today might get more of the publicity, but the one who has impressed me the most is Stephanopoulos, whose work on the Sunday morning political roundtable "This Week" established his reputation as one of the most objective and restrained political analysts on the tube of either party affiliation. That assessment was codified this past year when Stephanopoulos replaced Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts as the hosts of the show. "The War Room" shows not only where he paid his dues, but gives him his bone fides as well. The final irony is that the one clip showing Al Gore giving a campaign speech is more dynamic than anything we saw during the 2000 election."
The real West Wing
StevenJM | Pittsburgh, PA | 10/26/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Ok, so The War Room is really pre-West Wing. This is a great behind the scenes tale of how Clinton beat Bush. In fact, I would give it 5 stars if it was a bit longer.The leadership and strategy of James Carville coupled with the style and substance of George Stephanopolous led the Clinton campaign to the ultimate prize.The viewer sits in on many strategy sessions, hears a portion of phone calls with others in the Clinton camp and sees the behind the scenes maneuvering of other staff members in creating the atmosphere for Clinton's election. The other side is studied briefly, too. George Bush's words and appearances serve as a counterpoint to illustrate the reasons for the tactics of the Clinton team. A great study of a political campaign in action."
Great Insight into a campaign
D | Metro Detroit, MI USA | 08/06/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is the current state of the art look into a political campaign on the run.Carville and Stephanapoulos are really the central characters in this documentary, not Clinton. The action is very entertaining, even though we all know how the story will end.Watching the movie now, it is a bit interesting to see if you can sense the impending fallout between Clinton and Stephanapoulos.Watch this movie, and read either "What It Takes" or "The Boys on the Bus" as an essential primer on how political campaigns are waged in the television age.My only complaint is that this is exactly the type of movie that can take advantage of the opportunities offered by DVD: Historical charts, timelines, bios, etc. These were opportunities that were missed in this version."
Michael Crane | Orland Park, IL USA | 07/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The War Room" is an interesting documentary that shows you just exactly what goes on behind the scenes of a presidential campaign and all of the problems that can arise. Mostly centered around the Clinton campaign, we get a look at a man who is determined to be the next President of the United States. James Carville and George Stephanopoulos are the main brains behind the campaign, and they show it with their rapid thinking and reactions. The road to the White House proves to be a bumpy one for Clinton and company, as scandals surface and tabloid articles flood the newsstands. The people behind the campaign of Bill Clinton never get a break as they always have to be on their toes and figure out damage control. Even though you know how it all ends, it is still a tense and shocking film.What I love the most about this documentary is that there is no overall narrator, and there really isn't an agenda to it. The film doesn't force-feed you a likable Clinton. The film's real purpose is to show you what happens during these campaigns. Even though it's centered around Clinton, this film really could've been about anyone. The film doesn't sugarcoat anything as it gives you the raw footage and shows you how both sides can play dirty. It was amazing to watch Carville and Stephanopoulos work the way they did, as I had no idea how much of an important role they played in Clinton's campaign.I think this documentary can be enjoyed by anyone who is interested in how the system works. You really don't even have to like Clinton in order to enjoy it, as the film isn't trying to make it look like Clinton is a saint or anything like that. It is about how dirty people in these campaigns can fight, and it occurs on both sides. And since there is no overall narrator, there is really nothing in here that tells you that you should feel a certain way about it all. The DVD contains no special features, which is a shame.I really enjoyed "The War Room," and I'm not a real big fan of politics. I think it presents an interesting look at what goes on behind the scenes. If you're looking for an entertaining documentary that is funny and tense, then this is definitely something you should consider checking out. A big triumph on all fronts, if you want my honest opinion. -Michael Crane"
Excellent Documentary on Electoral Politics
hermione31 | California | 03/29/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of my all time favorite documentaries, The War Room depicts the behind the scene machinations of Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. The documentary was originally supposed to be about the romance between chief Clinton strategist, James ( the "Ragin' Cajun") Carville, and Marlee Matilin, who, at the time, was a chief advisor to the George Bush campaign. But documentaries, like politics, have a way of taking on a life of their own, and The War Room turned into a cinema verité examination of a presidential election at work, through the eyes of the master, Carville, and George Stephanopoulos, Clinton's press secretary, with whom the audience identifies, idealist that he is. The War Room gives one an opportunity to see up close the salesmanship, competitiveness, sincerity, frustration, and the unrelenting pace of king-making in politics. Carville and Stephanopoulos' work is exhilarating and exhausting. They are men of conviction, and have the battle-scars to prove it. As we watch the Convention showmanship, the strategies, the debates, and the cabin-fever come election day, we find ourselves knuckling down with our two guides and crossing our fingers as the results come in. Hegedus and Pennebaker do a remarkable job of making the audience feel part and parcel of the Clinton campaign. Even more impressive, election strategy successes and failures come across as well. We see the Clinton strategists impressive "quick-response" system in action, as they do battle with the media over the Gennifer Flowers nightmare, and we see what at first seems to be a promising lead on the Bush campaign financing their sign-printing with foreign laborers fall off the nightly
news schedule. Nobility and venality can coexist in the most talented and altruistic of people, but cannot be painlessly reconciled in the eyes of those who follow and admire them. This is a lesson lightly touched on by The War Room, and beaten over our heads by eight years that followed. The War Room was an Academy Award nominee in the category of "Best Documentary.""