Once upon a time, in a political galaxy not so far away, George Stephanopoulos was not the host of “Good Morning America” and James Carville was not a cable television combatant.
In “The War Room,” the 1993 documentary by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker, the filmmakers shadow Stephanopoulos and Carville when they were virtually unknown campaign operatives, manning a fly-by-night presidential campaign that would topple an incumbent president and create the vaunted Clinton political machine that prepares, even now, 22 years after Bill Clinton first took the White House, for another run.
The very term “War Room” is so overused now, whether it’s referring to a Senate leader’s communications HQ or an NFL draft coordinating center, that it is easy to forget that this movie popularized a term that until then was primarily associated with Stanley Kubrick’s absurdist apocalyptic comedy “Dr. Strangelove.”
Watching Stephanopoulos and Carville run the show is one of the real pleasures of “The War Room.” It’s a movie that shows men at work, doing what they love in a way very few people see. It’s also funny, moves at a brisk pace and has a great soundtrack.
A couple of years back, the Criterion Collection released the film anew, and it has much to offer besides a high-definition digital transfer. Interviews with the principals, “Return of the War Room,” a companion documentary from 2008 and political catnip like an interview with Stan Greenberg about polling make the Criterion edition a great supplement for this, our current midterm political season, as well as the coming Clinton restoration run.
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Jason Dick is the Hill Life editor for Roll Call and has also worked at Greenwire, CongressDaily and National Journal Daily during his time in Washington. @jasonjdick