Blu-ray Review: Return to ‘The War Room’ with Criterion Edition of Stellar Election Doc

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CHICAGO – With a wink and a smile, The Criterion Collection inducts Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker’s excellent “The War Room” into their arsenal eight months before the 2012 election. This riveting examination of the 1992 election from the winning side feels particularly relevant in today’s heated climate and the Blu-ray release also includes a stellar 2008 feature-length documentary called “Return to The War Room” in which the key players revisit the scene of the crime. Blu-ray Rating: 4.5/5.0
Blu-ray Rating: 4.5/5.0

Watching “The War Room” again one remembers the lightning in a bottle aspect of Clinton’s 1992 campaign. Seeing a glimpse of a young(er) Clinton is fascinating but the movie belongs to James Carville and George Stephanopoulos, the two men who really propelled Clinton into the White House. They were the right people at the right time for the right campaign. And the access granted to their influential and game-changing techniques was amazing. From how the campaign handles Jennifer Flowers to Paul Tsongas to Jerry Brown to, of course, George Bush, “The War Room” is insightful and enlightening.

The Criterion edition of the film includes the aforementioned spectacular retrospective documentary (which includes a TON of new interviews with the key players), new pieces with the filmmakers, a panel discussion, and a booklet with an informative essay.

It’s surprising how much “The War Room” actually feels older than it is. As the team is sitting around discussing issues, it’s funny to think how cell phones and social media would change the same conversation today. However, as much as the times have changed, one does wonder if Carville and Stephanopoulos could get a candidate to the top of the political machine today. They probably could.

The War Room was released on Blu-ray and DVD on March 20th, 2012.
The War Room was released on Blu-ray and DVD on March 20th, 2012.
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Criterion Collection

The 1992 presidential election was a triumph not only for Bill Clinton but also for the new breed of strategists who guided him to the White House and changed the face of politics in the process. For this thrilling, behind-closed-doors account of that campaign, renowned cinema verité filmmakers D. A. Pennebaker (Monterey Pop) and Chris Hegedus ( closely followed the brainstorming and bull sessions of Clinton’s crack team of consultants-especially the folksy James Carville and the preppy George Stephanopoulos, who became media stars in their own right as they injected a youthful spirit and spontaneity into the process of campaigning. Fleet-footed and entertaining, The War Room is a vivid document of a political moment whose truths (“It’s the economy, stupid!”) still ring in our ears.

Special Features:
o Panel Discussion Hosted By the William J. Clinton Foundation, Featuring Clinton Advisers James Carville and Vernon Jordan, Journalist Ron Brownstein, and Surprise Guest Bill Clinton
o Return Of The War Room - a 2008 Documentary By Hegedus and Pennebaker in which Carville, Advisers George Stephanopoulos and Paul Begala, and Others Reflect On the Effect That the Clinton War Room Had On The Way Campaigns Are Run
o New Prices In Which the Filmmakers Discuss The Difficulties of Shooting The Campaign’s Fast-Paced Environment
o Interview With Strategist Stanley Greenberg on the Evolution of Polling
o A booklet featuring an essay by writer Louis Menard

“The War Room” was directed by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker and was released by The Criterion Collection on Blu-ray and DVD on March 20th, 2012. content director Brian Tallerico

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