DVD: Shock and Awe

STUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTOR: Rob Reiner | CAST: Woody Harrelson, James Marsden, Tommy Lee Jones, Richard Schiff, Jessica Biel, Milla Jovovich,
RELEASE DATE: Aug. 14, 2018 | PRICE: DVD $12.96, Blu-ray $21.64
SPECS: R | 90 min. | Drama | 1.85:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes):
Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

While it looks like a TV movie and seems a little out-of-step with the times, Rob Reiner’s Shock and Awe from director Rob Reiner (Stand By Me) offers a compelling journalism parable about the George W. Bush’s administration’s false claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction which led America into the post-9/11 Iraqi War.

While the film fills in the saga with some archival footage and historic nuggets of this grand governmental bamboozle and the Fourth Estate’s seriously bungled coverage, the main focus of Reiner’s effort is on the media and how they reacted to the phony claim, choosing disastrously to follow The New York Times  and Washington Post’s reporting of the existence of WMDs in Iraq.

Much of the film takes place in the realm of the reporters and editors of the Washington bureau of Knight-Ridder Newspapers, where a group of no-nonsense journalists go against the grain and attempt to alert the world that the WMD claims are false. The fact that nobody believes them, including Knight-Ridder’s own flagship paper, The Philadelphia Inquirer, is the basis for dramatic tension amidst the elements of an underdog story.

Rob Reiner (Sandy Wexler) gives himself a juicy supporting role as John Walcott, the hard-working, slightly sarcastic bureau chief who commandeers the likes of investigative aces Jonathan Landy (Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) and Warren Strobel (James Marsden, The D Train) and, joining later in the hunt for real news, Joe Galloway (Tommy Lee Jones, Men in Black 3) a crusty Bronze star recipient with close contacts in D.C.

Reiner’s goal for Shock and Awe is pretty obvious: He wants to draw a line between what happened then–in regard to the White House manipulating news to their advantage–and now, as the current American president derides all mainstream media that disagrees with his policies or behavior.

For this reason, there’s an urgency here that may not show up in Reiner’s straightforward style, but makes an impact in the screenplay by LBJ scripter Joey Hartstone. There’s something admirably old-fashioned going on here, especially the back-and-forth dialogue between reporters, their contacts and other staff members. You get the sense that the late filmmaker Sam Fuller (Shock Corridor, The Naked Kiss), known for his “narrative tabloid” style, would enthusiastically approve of Reiner’s work here.

After a round of debuts at various international film festivals, Shock and Awe made a nearly invisible run in tiny number of theaters where it barely drew flies. (It grossed $77,000, to be precise.) Still, those who like the subject matter, politics and the fine cast—which also includes Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil: The Final Chapter) and Jessica Biel (A Kind of Murder) as romantic partners of Harrelson and Marsdan—may not be shocked or awestruck by the film, but should find it absorbing and gutsy in its own idiosyncratic way.

Buy or Rent Shock and Awe

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.