Shock and Awe (film)

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Shock and Awe
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRob Reiner
Written byJoey Hartstone
Produced by
CinematographyBarry Markowitz
Edited byBob Joyce
Music byJeff Beal
Distributed by
Release dates
  • September 30, 2017 (2017-09-30) (Zurich)
  • July 13, 2018 (2018-07-13) (United States)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$15.5 million[4]
Box office$182,415[5]

Shock and Awe is a 2017 American drama film starring and directed by Rob Reiner and written by Joey Hartstone. The film also stars Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, James Marsden, Milla Jovovich, and Jessica Biel, and follows a group of journalists at Knight Ridder's Washington Bureau who investigate the rationale behind the Bush Administration's then-impending 2003 invasion of Iraq.[6][7] The film had its world premiere at the Zurich Film Festival on September 30, 2017.[8] It was released through DirecTV Cinema on June 14, 2018, before having a limited release in theaters on July 13, 2018, by Vertical Entertainment.


Journalists investigate the Bush Administration's claims that Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein, possessed weapons of mass destruction. Based on an interview Woody Harrelson gave to entertainment magazine Variety, these claims were used as rationale and justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[9]

Most of the administration’s case for that war made absolutely no sense, specifically the notion that Saddam Hussein was allied with Osama bin Laden. That one from the get-go rang all the bells—a secular Arab dictator allied with a radical Islamist whose goal was to overthrow secular dictators and reestablish his Caliphate? The more we examined it, the more it stank. The second thing was rather than relying entirely on people of high rank with household names as sources, we had sources who were not political appointees. One of the things that has gone very wrong in Washington journalism is 'source addiction,' 'access addiction,' and the idea that in order to maintain access to people in the White House or vice president’s office or high up in a department, you have to dance to their tune. That's not what journalism is about.
We had better sources than she (Judith Miller) did and we knew who her sources were. They were political appointees who were making a political case.
I first met him (Ahmed Chalabi) in '95 or '96. I wouldn’t get dressed in the morning based on what he told me the weather was, let alone go to war.
—John Walcott, Knight Ridder Washington bureau chief[10][11]

Knight Ridder Washington reporters Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay received the Raymond Clapper Memorial Award from the Senate Press Gallery on February 5, 2004, for their coverage of the questionable intelligence used to justify war with Iraq.[12][13][14]



On July 12, 2016, Woody Harrelson was set as one of the leads of the film, reteaming with Reiner after LBJ.[27] On July 13, 2016, James Marsden was added as well.[28] The film features an interview with Dick Cheney on Meet the Press.


Principal photography on the film began in Louisiana on October 5, 2016.[29] In October 2016, Alec Baldwin left the cast, reportedly due to financial timing.[30] In November 2016, filming also took place in Washington, D.C.[31]

Walcott has said he believed the film to be essentially "word-for-word" accurate. At one 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 performed and filmed the scene.[32][33]


The film had its world premiere at the Zurich Film Festival on September 30, 2017.[34] Shortly after, Vertical Entertainment and DirecTV Cinema acquired distribution rights to the film.[35] The film was released through DirecTV on June 14, 2018, before beginning a limited release in 100 theaters on July 13, 2018.[36][37]


Box office[edit]

Shock and Awe grossed $77,980 in the United States and Canada and $104,435 in other territories, for a worldwide total of $182,415,[5] plus $2.6 million with home video sales.[38] against a $16 million budget. [39]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 30% based on 47 reviews, with an average rating of 4.70/10. 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."[40] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 47 out of 100, based on 18 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[41]

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."[42] Kerry Lengel of The Arizona Republic gave the film 1.5 out of 5 stars, writing, "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."[43]

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."[44]


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  4. ^ "Initial Certification Search" (Type "Shock and Awe" in the search box). Fastlane NextGen. Retrieved October 26, 2023.
  5. ^ a b "Shock and Awe (2018)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
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  7. ^ Follmer, Max (March 28, 2008). "The Reporting Team That Got Iraq Right". Retrieved August 5, 2018 – via Huff Post.
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  9. ^ McNary, Dave (July 12, 2016). "Woody Harrelson in Talks for Iraq War Drama 'Shock and Awe'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved January 11, 2017.
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  11. ^ "John Walcott". National Press Foundation. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  12. ^ Ritea, Steve. "Going It Alone: Accolades now come to Knight Ridder for its prescient reports expressing skepticism about claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction". American Journalism Review. Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  13. ^ "Knight Ridder journalists honored for stories on war planning". McClatchy DC. February 4, 2004. Retrieved August 5, 2018.
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  15. ^ "Office of International Affairs - Jonathan Landay". Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  16. ^ " - Transcripts". Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  17. ^ "Iraq: Where were the journalists?". Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  18. ^ "Knight-Ridder Scores (Again)". Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  19. ^ "Wrong on Iraq? Not Everyone". April 1, 2006. Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  20. ^ "Warren Strobel -". Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  21. ^ "How Walcott and the Knight Ridder reporters went about their work". Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  22. ^ "John Walcott - National Press Foundation". Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 5, 2018. Retrieved August 5, 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  24. ^ "Peter Maass - Books - Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War". Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  25. ^ "Global Concepts & Communications - international consultancy with a conscience". Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  26. ^ Landay, Vlatka (August 5, 2018). "Positioning Through Hate Speech: Immediate Effects and Lasting Consequences of Serbian Wartime Media Discourse". Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  27. ^ Jaafar, Ali (July 12, 2016). "Woody Harrelson To Reteam With Rob Reiner For Iraq War Pic 'Shock And Awe'". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  28. ^ Jaafar, Ali (July 13, 2016). "James Marsden Joining Woody Harrelson In Rob Reiner's 'Shock And Awe'". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved July 13, 2016.
  29. ^ King, Kevin P. (October 1, 2016). "Central Casting Louisiana *SHOCK & AWE - filming in Hammond, LA - Wed October 5th*". The Southern Casting Call. Archived from the original on October 18, 2016. Retrieved January 11, 2017.
  30. ^ Gerard, Jeremy; Busch, Anita (October 18, 2016). "Alec Baldwin Exits Rob Reiner's 'Shock And Awe'". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved January 11, 2017.
  31. ^ Heil, Emily (November 14, 2016). "Star-studded Rob Reiner movie 'Shock and Awe' filming in D.C." The Washington Post. Retrieved August 27, 2017.
  32. ^ Editorial, Reuters (June 14, 2018). "Reuters hosts private screening and roundtable discussion of "Shock..." Retrieved August 5, 2018. {{cite news}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  33. ^ "White House responds to Knight Ridder article". Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  34. ^ "Shock and Awe". Zurich Film Festival. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
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  36. ^ Times Staff (April 26, 2018). "Every single movie coming out this summer". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
  37. ^ Pederson, Erik (May 18, 2018). "'Shock And Awe' Trailer: Rob Reiner's Thriller About Journalists Vs. The Government's Iraq War Justification". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved June 20, 2018.
  38. ^ "Shock and Awe (2018) - Financial Information". The Numbers, Nash Information Services, LLC. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
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  40. ^ "Shock and Awe (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved August 6, 2021.
  41. ^ "Shock and Awe Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  42. ^ Fear, David (July 13, 2018). "'Shock and Awe' Review: Journalistic Drama Is No 'All the President's Men". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  43. ^ Lengel, Kerry (July 12, 2018). "'Shock and Awe' review: Thanks but no thanks to Rob Reiner's drama". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  44. ^ Deborah Young (December 18, 2017). "'Shock and Awe': Film Review - Dubai 2017". Retrieved August 5, 2018.

External links[edit]