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THE WAR ROOM takes us inside Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign and the exciting, topsy-turvy race that proved to be one of the most memorable in U.S. history and came to define American political discourse for the 1990s. Director D.A. Pennebaker provides a personal, up-close view of the two principals: campaign managers James Carville and George Stephanopoulos as they try to stay on top of the exploding maelstrom of events--from scandalous, personal smear tactics (Gennifer Flowers) to the rise of quixotic spoiler Ross Perot. With remarkable confidence and media-saavy, they maintain order and forward momentum by steering public discourse away from negative issues of character and draft-dodging and back to the focus of their candidate's policies. They also create convincing catchphrases (It's the Economy, Stupid!) and keep the perspective on domestic issues tailormade to benefit Clinton. THE WAR ROOM is a harrowing emotional roller coaster of unfolding drama and suspense, loaded with historic significance and personal intimacy.
The inimitable "ragin' Cajun" James Carville and his preppy pundit sidekick George Stephanopoulos are in rare form here as Bill Clinton's top campaign strategists. Together, Carville and Stephanopoulos coin resonant campaign witticisms replete with biting commentary on the Bush administration's outmoded leadership and management. With their media finesse, both men adroitly deflect the slanderous remarks thrown Clinton's way, thereby launching him into the White House--in this textbook of modern political tactics--from their strategists' holy ground, better known as the War Room. The film is directed by rockumentarian D.A. Pennebaker (DON'T LOOK BACK).
THE WAR ROOM premiered at the 1993 New York Film Festival, running time 94 minutes. The film was produced on a "shoestring" budget of $140,000. THE WAR ROOM is cinema verité pioneer D.A. Pennebaker's first political film since the 1977 document THE ENERGY WAR. According to reports, Pennebaker and partner Chris Hegedus started filming just before the Democratic National Convention held in New York City. The concept for the film came from Wendy Ettinger and R.J. Cutler, two theater producers in their 30s who were greatly excited by the Clinton campaign. "Clinton was doing something that had never been done as long as I had been able to vote. It reminded everyone of the Kennedy era, in terms of intelligence and charisma," Ettinger told Phillip Weiss of The New York Observer. Once Ettinger and Cutler decided to film the campaign, they viewed D.A. Pennebaker's CRISIS, featuring Bobby Kennedy, at the Museum of Broadcasting. Deeply moved by this document, they decided to locate the filmmaker. Ettinger also contacted friends in Washington, as well as the Little Rock headquarters, after sending important political pundits copies of CRISIS in hopes they would respond favorably to the idea for the film. On the eve of the Democratic Convention, the production crew learned there would be no access to Clinton. Instead they could set up shop in the strategical office, better known as the War Room. The crew filmed for eight days in Little Rock, and ending up with what amounted to 40 hours of footage. The directors also used stock footage of earlier campaign highlights. Before its limited release, the film was screened privately for Pennebaker and Hegedus's friends Susan Sarandon, Sam Cohn of ICM, and Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg.
"...[THE WAR ROOM] manages to coax cliffhanging suspense out of a fait accompli....A revealing film and an invaluable document..." - 10/13/1993 New York Times, p.C15
"...Delightful..." - Recommended - 06/01/1994 Premiere, p.122
"...Absorbing....It's effectively upfront and in close..." - 10/04/1993 Variety
"...At the center of THE WAR ROOM are James Carville and George Stephanopoulos, and it's amazing how these two political advisors pull focus from the nominal head of their campaign..." - 11/01/1993 Film Comment, p.70-6
"...What you realize, watching Carville and Stephanopoulos move between grand strategy and damage control, is that they are good at their jobs....Certainly their decision to allow access by documentarians shows a willingness to be seen, warts and all..." - 01/24/1994 Chicago Sun-Times, p.40
"[Y]ou almost forget that you're watching real life instead of a nail-biting Hollywood thriller." -- Grade: A - 03/23/2012 Entertainment Weekly