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The War Room(1993)
The War Room takes us inside Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. Director D.A. Pennebaker provides an 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 to the rise of quixotic spoiler Ross Perot.
For more about The War Room and the The War Room Blu-ray release, see the The War Room Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on March 27, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Bill Clinton, James Carville, George Stephanopoulos, Heather Beckel, Paul Begala, Michael Donnilon
Directors: D.A. Pennebaker, Chris Hegedus
» See full cast & crew
The War Room Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, March 27, 2012
Nominated for Oscar Award for Best Documentary Feature, Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker's "The War Room" (1993) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include original trailer; a series of video interviews with directors Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker; producers R.J. Cutler, Wendy Ettinger, and Frazer Pennebaker; and camera operator Nick Doob; video interview with Stanley Greenberg, pollster for the 1992 Clinton campaign; and more. The disc also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by Harvard University professor Louis Menand. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
The War Room chronicles the triumph of two men: James ("The Ragin' Cajun") Carville and George Stephanopoulos, the key figures on Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign team. The film was directed by acclaimed documentarian D.A. Pennebaker (Monterey Pop) and his wife, Chris Hegedus.
Various important political events are highlighted in the film, such as Clinton's surprising performance in the New Hampshire primary, the controversy over his draft record, the address accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Democratic National Convention in New York, and the defeat of George H.W. Bush. Yet, Clinton and his political career are not the focus of attention.
The best sequences in the film are the ones where Carville goes off on his opponents. There are a number of terrific one-liners in them, some of which are now legendary ("It's the economy, stupid!"). In the final third of the film he also delivers a terrific, genuinely moving speech in front of the entire campaign team.
The soft spoken Stephanopoulos never appears as intense as Carville. He carefully evaluates the information that is handed out to him and only then offers an opinion. Unlike Carville, who is a casual dresser, most of the time he is also seen wearing a tie.
Despite their drastically different styles, Carville and Stephanopoulos are both terrific strategists. During the team briefings they routinely explain why seemingly surprising changes in their tactics were made, and what results are expected. Whenever their opponents make a mistake, they are also quick to point it out, and attack it if there is a chance that they could strengthen their positions.
The real chess game, however, begins after the Democratic National Convention in New York. At this point the Bush and Clinton campaigns regularly exchange fire, looking for a surprising hit. Both camps also routinely express dissatisfaction with the way the media covers their activities because they are well aware that even the smallest mistake can spell disaster. Unsurprisingly, very strong words are often spoken.
The final third of the film is fascinating. A lot of people look incredibly nervous as every poll and news report is carefully studied. Carville can sense that things are heading in the right direction for Clinton and eventually makes bold predictions, but Stephanopoulos remains cautious. However, both have absolutely no doubts that they and the campaign team have done everything they could to help Clinton win.
There is a lot of drama in these final moments, but it is not the pre-arranged type that nowadays routinely pops up in reality shows. The reactions are real, the emotions are real, the joy and the euphoria are unmistakably real. More importantly, there are some real character transformations.
After the news networks announce that Clinton and Gore have won in a landslide, people on the campaign team suddenly realize that the game they have been playing has finally ended. Now they must move on and get used to the fact that they will never again be in the same room together, addressing each other as they used to.
There is a whiff of romance as well. During the campaign Carville makes a few comments that quickly reveal that he has fallen in love with Mary Matalin, Bush's top strategist.
Note: In 1994, The War Room was nominated for Oscar for Best Documentary Feature (D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus).
The War Room Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker's The War Room arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"Approved by filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker and producer Frazer Pennebaker, this new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit 2K Datacine from the original 16mm camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI's DRS, while Image Systems' Phoenix was used for grain, noise reduction, jitter, and flicker.
Telecine supervisor: Chris Hegedus.
Colorist: Joe Gawler/Deluxe New York; Lee Kline/Criterion, New York.
Editing and conform: Gabriel Chavez/Criterion, New York."
Aside from some tiny flecks occasionally popping up here and there, the high-definition transfer is virtually flawless. Detail and depth are excellent, clarity very pleasing, and color reproduction good. Obviously, there are some resolution limitations with the archival footage from the news networks (see screencapture #7), as well as the bits with Ross Perot, but the original footage is indeed as good as 16mm footage can possibly look in high-definition (see screencaptures #6 and 15). There are no serious stability issues to report in this review either. Additionally, there isn't even a whiff of edge flicker or, during the darker sequences, macroblocking. Grain is also well resolved and evenly distributed throughout the entire film. All in all, the Blu-ray release represents a substantial upgrade in quality over the old R1 DVD release of the film, which Lionsgate produced back in 1998. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The War Room Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original 35mm magnetic audio tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation."
Predictably, the English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track has a fairly limited dynamic amplitude. Clarity and depth, however, are excellent. Unsurprisingly, the briefings, speeches, and debates are very easy to follow. For the record, there are no sync issues or problematic audio dropouts to report in this review.
The War Room Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The War Room Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum - left, right, or somewhere in-between - you should find the time to see The War Room. Yes, there is a lot of political talk in it, but what the film offers is not a series of biased political observations; rather, it offers a glimpse into the democratic process that ultimately determines how people live their lives in America. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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