September 11, 2001 is a day that no one will ever forget. I’ve met people who were just small children when this devastating event occurred and never experienced the pain and shock that gripped not only the United States, but the world entirely. I will remember this day for the rest of my life, but the story of why we went to war with Iraq is something I don’t quite recall. Rob Reiner’s newest film tackles the story of why the United States went after Saddam Hussein nearly two years after 9/11. Questions are raised and answers are hardly said when the story is uncovered. As a film Shock and Awe (named after the code word for the invasion of Iraq) is well-intended but falls flat in comparison to other investigative journalist films such as All The President’s Men and Spotlight.
The world was shocked with the events of 9/11 and the question that everyone asked was, “Who is responsible?” There wasn’t any concrete evidence in the immediate aftermath, but suspicion pointed towards the Middle East, specifically Iraq. The American people wanted to know the truth and numerous newspapers like The New York Times, The Washington Post and others were talking about Saddam Hussein (The President of Iraq) having possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) or nuclear weapons. It was talked about at length and sources were being mentioned as well.
For Knight Rider journalists Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel (Woody Harrelson and James Marsden), they are curious as to whether the stories are true. Does Saddam have WMDs? Together with their boss John Walcott (Rob Reiner) they need to find numerous sources who can back up these claims and others to shed light on the possibility of America waging war against Iraq, another topic that is floating around in the Press.
While the premise is intriguing, there are some pitfalls here. Throughout the film, we follow the two journalists who interview numerous people but we, the audience, never know who these people are. They are given no names and are identified by their titles: intelligence officer, military personnel and a select few members of the government in Washington D.C. I was curious as to why these characters were presented in this fashion. Was it a deliberate move from director Rob Reiner or were their names to remain classified in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act that would reveal pertinent information?
Whatever the reason, the movie feels empty as the journalists spend time comparing notes and running into dead-ends without finding a suitable source to quote on their paper. Numerous other newspapers beat them to the punch and read the news instead of doing what a journalist is supposed to do: report the news. Another problem is the supporting cast, and my, is it a great one. Tommy Lee Jones portrays Joe Galloway and his performance is decent, but nothing worth mentioning. We also have Lisa (Jessica Biel) the neighbor of Warren who strikes up a relationship with him. We also see Jonathan have conversations with his wife Vlatka (Milla Jovovich) about what’s going on. Everyone feels flat and there isn’t one standout moment in the film. It further proves that a great cast can’t save a film even though the premise is promising.
Verdict 2 out of 5
Rob Reiner makes a decent film but the script by Joey Hartstone (LBJ) is lacking. It fails to educate the audience in ways that the previous films aforementioned did and by the end of it I felt that I learned nothing. The performances are ok at best but do nothing to keep you enticed. I recently watched an interview with the real-life journalists and that’s way more engaging than this film. It’s tedious and doesn’t seem to have a fully realized vision. It could’ve been handled better than the result we are given. A more thought out script and better utilization of its characters could’ve shot this movie to a spotlight, but there are better films out there and this one misses the mark on impacting the audience.