The War Game

Draft Review by Dean Duncan Apr 17, 2014

A vivid, indelible curio from the mid-’60s, still shocking, & a powerful reminder of the fears that so completely prevailed in that not so long ago nuclear age; so impressive how the amazing Peter Watkins combines heavy, heavy information/exposition with the craftiest, the most startling speculative re-enactment; (is that last phrase an oxymoron, or an impossibility? Maybe, it’s also exactly what they’ve accomplished here);

Contrary to legend, The War Game was not exactly banned by the BBC, though it was suppressed, or part-withheld–too alarming, they thought; everyone likes to mock or abominate the book burners, but that’s not always what the seeming-censors are actually up to; watch the film & see if they might not have had a good reason! Here’s the thing, though: sometimes, too alarming is actually an emblem of the cover up, or the cataclysmic policy, & the fact that we seem to be utterly oblivious thereto; sometimes too alarming is just what’s called for, even a moral necessity;

This movie won an Oscar for best documentary feature back in 1966; watch it and ask how on earth that could have happened; watch again and you may ask how on earth they could have done anything else; Columbia, Missouri hosts the yearly true/false film festival (; Watkins’ masterpiece, & other films like it, are the reason why; genre divisions are useful & helpful up to a point, but that non/fiction membrane is pretty permeable, after all!

Finally, youngsters, look what you can do with limited resources, a good knowledge of research methodology & the theory/history of your chosen discipline, & good old fashioned resourcefulness; here’s one of the most involving, immersing, convincing, traumatizing movies ever, & all on a thin dime or two;

Check out Watkins ’64, ’76, ’94 & 2000 to see him apply his tremendous techniques to the pre-film past. Here, the horse’s mouth:

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Tweet Review:

Saw Peter Watkins’ #WarGame in #TMA293. Still plays powerfully; it’s admirably resourceful, engaged, informative, angry …

… So many more filmmaking options than we imagine!