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The War Room (Criterion Collection)

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Editorial Reviews

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 (Startup.com) 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

New, restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by directors D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus

Return of the War Room, a 2008 documentary in which advisers James Carville, George Stephanopoulos, and Paul Begala and others reflect on the effect the Clinton war room had on the way campaigns are run

Making “The War Room,” a conversation between the filmmakers about the difficulties of shooting in the campaign’s fast-paced environment

Panel discussion hosted by the William J. Clinton Foundation and featuring Carville, Clinton adviser Vernon Jordan, journalist Ron Brownstein, and surprise guest Bill Clinton

Interview with strategist Stanley Greenberg on the increasing importance of polling

PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by writer Louis Menand


Product Details

  • Actors: James Carville, George Stephanopoulos, Bill Clinton, Heather Beckel, Paul Begala
  • Directors: D. A. Pennebaker, Chris Hegedus
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: March 20, 2012
  • Run Time: 96 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B006ML50QK
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,684 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The War Room (Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Lawrance Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on August 28, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
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.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Michael Crane on July 13, 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
"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.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By D on August 6, 2001
Format: DVD
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.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By StevenJM VINE VOICE on October 25, 2002
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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.
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