If The War Room were a fictional feature, it would be a sure-fire star-making vehicle for James Carville. President Clinton’s crafty, straight-talking campaign manager dominates this absorbing but basically unrevelatory behind-the-scenes look at the former Arkansas governor’s long push for the presidency.
With Clinton as a sort of secondary character who pops in periodically, pic charts the nine-month pregnancy of his battle for the White House from the perspective of his key strategists, Carville and communications director George Stephanopoulos.
From frigid New Hampshire to the inner sanctum of their Little Rock h.q. on election night, the two young men and their staffs could almost as easily pass for grad students plotting a campus event as professionals whose hunches and whims will profoundly mark the world political landscape.
With his country boy Cajun accent, fast thinking and frank talking, Carville is a disarming presence from the get-go. Sneering that ‘I think of an old calendar when I look at George Bush’s face,’ Carville is usually seen on the phone or addressing his troops.
Cinema verite pioneer Pennebaker, whose early work included the landmark political docus Crisis and Primary, has, with his wife, Hegedus, and their collaborators, valuably added to the official record with this fresh angle on the US political process.
1993: Nomination: Best Documentary Feature