Director: Rob Reiner
Written by: Joey Hartstone
Running time: 90 min
Release Date: 2017
Additional Cast: James Marsden, Jessica Biel and Woody Harrelson
A group of journalists covering George Bush’s planned invasion of Iraq in 2003 are skeptical of the presidents claim that Saddam Hussein has “weapons of mass destruction.”
Filming & Release
On July 12, 2016, Woody Harrelson was added to the cast of Iraq war film Shock and Awe. On July 13, 2016, James Marsden also joined the film. Principal photography on the film began in Louisiana on October 5, 2016.In October 2016, Alec Baldwin left the production reportedly due to financial timing.In November 2016, filming also took place in Washington, D.C.
Walcott has said he believed the film to be essentially word for word. At a point in the film, Walcott gives an inspiring speech to the newsroom, but the original script had a screenwriter’s version. On the day of shooting, Strobel said to Reiner that he should use Walcott’s original words; Reiner had Walcott write down his exact speech, and Reiner then filmed the scene.
The film had its world premiere at the Zurich Film Festival on September 30, 2017. Shortly after, Vertical Entertainment and DirecTV Cinema acquired distribution rights to the film. The film was released through DirecTV Cinema on June 14, 2018, before being released in a limited release on July 13, 2018.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 29% based on 45 reviews, with an average rating of 4.69/10. The website’s critical consensus reads, “Shock and Awe has a worthy story to tell and some fine actors trying to bring it to life; unfortunately, the end results are still as derivative as they are dramatically inert.” On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 47 out of 100, based on 18 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews”.
Writing for Rolling Stone, David Fear gave the film 2/5 stars, saying, “It’s an important story to remember right now, assuming you can remember anything after being beaten over the head with talking points for 90 minutes. But at its best, Shock and Awe still feels like it strains to be Spotlight-lite and comes up lacking. The title is a misnomer.” Kerry Lengel of The Arizona Republic gave the film 1.5 out of 5 stars, writing: “All of this might be forgivable if Shock and Awe weren’t such a terrible movie. It’s trite and mechanistic in its attempts to build pathos while also making its arguments, from the opening scene featuring a soldier paralyzed by an IED to the absolute low point, a date between Marsden’s reporter and his pretty next-door neighbor, played by Jessica Biel.”
Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, “The reporting team at Knight Ridder Newspapers has been called ‘the only ones who got it right’ about Saddam Hussein’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction that sparked the 2003 Iraq war. Based on a true story, Rob Reiner’s Shock and Awe gives much-deserved credit to their far-sighted (if generally unheeded) news coverage, but the message tends to melt into a paint-by-numbers screenplay that pushes too many genre buttons to be thoroughly exciting.”