Movie Review - Shock and Awe (2018)

After September 11, 2001, leading up to the start of the Iraq War in March 2003, the mainstream media went along with the White House and the government's arguments that Saddam Hussein was building weapons of mass destruction, justifying the United States' initiation of that conflict. Looking back 15 years, it's now known that those arguments from George W. Bush's administration were untrue. 15 years later, the Iraq War cost the USA trillions of dollars and needlessly killed thousands of people, including tons of American soldiers. The war was a disaster, and a lot of people blame the media for going along with the Bush administration. However, this movie shows that not everyone in the media went along with the administration. Directed by Rob Reiner, this movie documents the only media outlet that went against the tide and was shunned for it or was outright ignored.

Reiner also stars here as John Walcott, the bureau chief for the Knight Ridder News Service in Washington, DC. He oversees dozens of reporters. Two of those reporters are Warren Strobel, played by James Marsden (Hairspray and X-Men), and Jonathan Landay, played by Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The People vs. Larry Flynt). Strobel and Landay were in contact with sources within the government that were going against the mainstream talk, doubting that Iraq and Hussein were a threat on the level being purported.

This movie isn't particularly exciting because unlike Spotlight (2015) or All the President's Men (1976), the journalists here aren't doing any investigative work or digging up dirt and secrets. There are revelations here of a sort but they aren't earth-shattering or at least they don't come across as such. It's also not about the journalists themselves or developing their characters or learning about who they and why they are the way they are. We get glimpses into their personal lives, but not enough for us to care. Milla Jovavich (Resident Evil and The Fifth Element) plays Strobel's wife and she's fun as an extreme leftist.

Reiner structures his film similarly to Robert Redford's Lion for Lambs (2007) where you have people debating things academically while cutting to another parallel story line involving a soldier being pulled into the military and then sent to war. The soldier is Private First Class Adam Green, played by Luke Tennie. Unfortunately, the movie never delves into Adam, into what he's thinking and feeling or what he's experiencing internally. He's basically just a prop for this movie.

Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln and The Fugitive) also co-stars as Joseph Galloway who should be a bigger deal than he ultimately is. He's essentially just a prop in this narrative than a person. We don't delve deeply into this man much at all either. I suppose Jones' performance tells you all you need, but it wasn't enough for me.

Like Steven Spielberg's The Post (2017), this movie seems to be about journalistic integrity and newspapers in a kind of tug-of-war. The conflict in question is peer pressure or group-think. Knight Ridder was alone in its coverage and had a deal that other papers would carry its stories. But, papers like the Philadelphia Inquirer refused to carry Knight Ridder's stories. The mainstream basically ignored these stories, which turned out to be true, thus proving why it's important for the news media to challenge the government and be the Fourth Estate to check it.

Rated R for language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 30 mins.

Available on DVD and VOD.


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