Shock and Awe

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Shock and Awe

Runtime 90 minutes

The more I see of these rapidly thrown together, poorly-written, haphazardly-directed films like The Post (2017) and Shock and Awe, the more I realize what an outstanding movie All the Presidents Men (1976) was. While all three were made by strident left-wingers (Robert Redford, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Rob Reiner are obdurate leftists, and make efforts to insert their political agendas into their movies), All the Presidents Men was extremely well-written, well-directed and well-acted. It had a good story; it was well plotted; it was well executed and it’s a movie I can watch over and over.

Spielberg and Reiner have both admitted that they threw The Post and Shock and Awe, respectively, together as quickly as possible; Spielberg because he was already deeply involved in Ready Player One (2018) at the time The Post came up and said he took time off from One because he felt it “important” that the political view of The Post be presented. Reiner lost the person he wanted to play the lead and said that because he “didn’t have the time,” he took over the role himself.

Directed by Reiner from a script by Joey Hartstone, based on the life stories of Joseph Galloway, Jonathan Landay, Warren Strobel and John Walcott, and how they and Knight-Ridder, the publisher for whom they worked, were voices crying in the wilderness about the alleged dishonesty in the Bush administration’s run-up to starting the war.

Nobody can accuse Shock and Awe of any of the three things that set All the President’s Men apart, and I wouldn’t be caught dead watching it again. To start off with, it is unremittingly boring. While it might tell the story of Knight Ridder’s pursuit of the truth behind the second Iraq war, it is so ham-fisted that had it been longer I would have had to bolt because I could not have taken more than the 90 minutes I endured.

I was looking forward to this film because my opinion is that the second Iraq war was a huge mistake and was forced on us by an inept president who seemed to want to gain familial revenge for his father’s failures.

So, despite the political bias of its filmmakers, I was predisposed to like this film which makes a case that everyone in the Bush administration was lying to bring the country behind starting a war with Iraq. (I don’t know if that’s true or not but this film does present people like Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Powell making categorical statements that turned out not to be true; to be lies, however, they had to know they were not speaking the truth and that is unknowable without their admissions).

Considering the fact that Reiner has been a talented director and that Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones and James Marsden are competent actors, I never dreamt it could be so bad.


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