Good investigative reporting doesn't always get it justice!
Investigative reporting, until the advent of the Trump administration, has had a bad odor since Bush's invasion of Iraq.
Rob Reiner's 'Shock and Awe', based on a true story, has given it new life, and is an antidote to Trump's shouting at the drop of a hat 'fake news' or the psycho babble Rupert Murdoch's Fox News serves up daily as distortions of truth and dollops of propaganda.
If you're looking for the glamor and excitement of 'All the President's Men', you won't find it here. What, however, you'll find is the shoe and leather craft of investigative reporting, and why hard facts and the truth matter.
9/11 fed the hungry mouth of blind nationalism; it colored reporting, as well as it stoked the flames of revenge.
Bush went to war in Afghanistan to avenge 9/11, to quash Al Qaeda and capture and kill Osama ben Laden. But he and his vice president Cheney and close advisors had another war on their mind, a war in Iraq to topple a tooth dictator Saddam Hussein and bring the fruits of US democracy to Iraqi.
Rob Reiner has made a solid film of how the main stream media fell for the propaganda Bush & co fed the press and TV news.
And yet, one news outlet Knight Ridder News Service didn't. And Reiner's script writer Joey Hartstone tells it as it was, cleverly andwith strong feeling and with a pen planted in reality.
The film opens on two planes: John Landry (Woody Harrelson) partakes in a war game for journalists and what they should do if captured by terrorists; this before 9/11...as though it were game of Cowboys and Indians.
The real drama begins of Willie Lewis (a strong Luke Tennie), a paraplegic, owing to an IED in Iraq, who wheels himself into a Congressional hearing on the Iraq War; he begins by fingering beads of data on the war to the Congressmen here assembled who look at him benignly, as a young man who signed up after 9/11 to serve his country, and then turns the tables on them and asks 'how did this happen?'And then we get into the quick of the story.
Two persistent reporters Landry and Warren Strobel (James Marsden) tirelessly ply their craft to get at the truth. Rob Reiner plays the Knight Ridder managing editor John Wolcott, ably aided by a veteran journalist with 43 years of war behind him Joe Galloway, played by Tommy Lee Jones with spit and vinegar to season the relentlessness to get at the truth why Iraq? And they do it with a dedication that commands our respect, although at the time, many did not think so. As a news service Knight Ridder News served 30 odd newspapers, each one of which could choose to print or not what it got on the news wire. And in the case of the war, and here 'The Philadelphia Inquirer', a paper of heft chose not to. Nonetheless, 'Shock and Awe' deftly uses TV footage from C-Span, MSNBC, CNN and Fox News, mainly to bring to our eye and ear the machinations of the Bush White House to hoodwink the US public and the world that lying pays in pursuing an Iraq War that remains opened ended in 2018. It also use headlines from the 'Washington Post', especially 'The New York Times', whose Michael Gordon and especially Judith Miller spread the Bush line on the war, that no one but Knight Ridder challenged. Equally important is the method Wolcott encouraged of talking to the little people in the government to ferret out and build a case that Bush & co. were lying through their teeth; how they perverted intelligence, killed the career Of 5 star general Colin Powell who made a fool of himself at the UN Security Council hawking aluminum tubes as proof of Hussein's travelling nuclear arsenal. The sad tale is that everyone drank the Gatorade, but Knight Ritter. Jessica Biel, Milla Jovovich and Margo Moore are not taken in by the Bush lies.
Equally interesting as background you see the unnamed heroes and heroines who came forward to connect the dots of this woeful story of lies, deceptions and made up facts. Ultimately, it was the disgraced Judith Miller whose words end the fil that 'Knight Ridder' was the only one that got it right'. 'Shock and Awe' probably won't do well at the box office, but it should be seen by journalism classes and school children as a learning tool of how truth matters. Reiner is a seasoned film maker and he know how to use close up, darkened room restaurants, long shoots to create a strong story line. He doesn't use 'Shock and Awe' to make us weep, but as a cautionary tale that vigilance and an informed citizenry is the price of liberty and freedom of the press.
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