Advanced screening of Rob Reiner’s ‘Shock and Awe’ sells out at the Picture House

By Violet Massie-Vereker, Opinions & Ideas Editor

Director, actor, and activist Rob Reiner made an appearance at The Picture House Regional Film Center Friday, June 8, for a screening of his new film that follows a collection of journalists as they question claims by President George W. Bush’s administration regarding Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction. 

Starring Woody Harrelson, James Marsden, Tommy Lee Jones, and Reiner himself, “Shock and Awe” serves as a fictional commemoration of the 2003 distribution of misinformation and the resulting war. The film called attention to similar contemporary political circumstances.

“I had planned to ask Mr. Reiner if while making ‘Shock and Awe,’ he was thinking his next film would be, ‘No Collusion’ or ‘Fake News’?” said audience member Sydney Thayer.

Creator of decorated classics such as “The Princess Bride,” “When Harry Met Sally,” “Stand By Me,” and “This is Spinal Tap,” Reiner’s impressive career has lasted over 40 years. The Picture House’s 300-seat main hall was sold out over a week before the event.

Campaigning outside the theater before the film’s start was New York State Senate candidate Alessandra Biaggi. Campaign Field Director Joseph Garvey expressed his positive opinion of the film.

“We must always demand truth from our leaders, and always expect truth from our news,” Garvey stated. “This film is a beautiful depiction of the severe consequences when both are untruthful.”

Though the audience was packed with fans, not all came away satisfied with Reiner’s work.

“[‘Shock and Awe’] seemed rushed in its production, very derivative, and paled in comparison to similar journalistic films. It wasn’t especially dramatic or revealing,” Thayer later commented. “[It] would have been better served as a documentary where he could have stuck to the facts and avoided the incredibly trite and annoying personal storylines that are often required of novelistic film portrayals.”

In the Q&A following the screening, Reiner continued his plea to his viewers to remain informed and relentless in finding the truth. With a history of civic involvement— actively campaigning for candidates such as Al Gore and Hillary Clinton and serving on numerous committees advocating against social issues such as tobacco usage and same-sex marriage bans— Reiner remarked on how his liberal politics likely impacted the political nature of his viewers.

 Grumbles rippled through the audience as Reiner launched into his beliefs of the film’s relevance in today’s political environment, tearing apart President Donald Trump and his administration for failures inaccurate political reporting. Questions from the Pelham audience challenged this claim, as viewers highlighted the lies that both political parties proliferated in their favor. Others, however, thanked Reiner for the film that served as a tribute to the carnage that misinformation contributed to the Iraq War.