War Game Review: A Sobering Simulation of Troubling Possibilities

When Experts Stress Test American Democracy

War Game tackles weighty subject matter by putting viewers in the director’s chair of an unprecedented crisis response simulation. Directors Jesse Moss and Tony Gerber craft an intimate portrayal of former government officials role-playing a response to insurrection-level unrest. On the surface, the premise may seem like a serious stretch. But considering recent events, it raises thought-provoking questions about how leaders would confront unrest aided by rogue military factions.

Not content to merely speculate, the film seeks to uncover practical solutions through realistic scenarios. We watch as politicians and national security experts grapple with the tumult unfolding nationwide. Ranging from the president on down, each person brings real-world experience to their role. But they have no script—only real-time updates on escalating chaos. Through the exercise, we gain unique insight as tensions mount and difficult decisions loom.

While sobering in subject, War Game avoids hopelessness. It sees crises as an opportunity for progress, not polarization. By stress-testing the system’s weaknesses, participants aim to strengthen America’s democratic institutions for what lies ahead. In showing civil yet uncertain discourse, the film strikes a balance we’d do well to emulate: steadiness in uncertain times.

Designing a Crisis

The crew at the Vet Voice Foundation wanted to test the nation’s resilience in a moment of turmoil. Two years later, on January 6th, they constructed an elaborate simulation to stage such a crisis. They called it the “War Game,”  aiming to identify vulnerabilities and strengthen responses.

War Game Review

Janessa Goldbeck, the group’s founder, drove the project. Her Marine background gave her strategic insight, while personal brushes with extremism deepened her concerns. She worked with a team to devise an all-too-believable scenario. They imagined the 2024 election ending with a narrow but disputed outcome. The losing candidate refuses recognition. Instead, he rallies fervent supporters with baseless claims of fraud and stolen victory.

Tensions rise and protests swell over the following months. Then, on January 6, 2025, with Congress due to certify the results, the situation takes a darker turn. Mobs storm capitol buildings in multiple states, demanding new votes. The “Order of Columbus,”  a fictional stand-in for real militant groups, leads the charge. Meanwhile, disturbing signs emerge that some in the military question their oath to civilian leadership. It seemed a crisis was unfolding that could shake the constitutional system.

Goldbeck sought out respected voices to populate the game’s main roles. Former Montana Governor Steve Bullock stepped in as the leader facing this towering challenge, President John Hotham. Around him, Goldbeck assembled an all-star team. They included ex-senators, retired flag officers, experts in information warfare, and more. All brought valued experience, though none knew exactly what troubles the simulation had in store.

For six tense hours, this committee would strive to resolve the deepening standoff from a make-believe situation room. Goldbeck’s “white cell” oversaw events, responding to their strategic calls in real-time. Meanwhile, another group fueled unrest as the insurrectionist “red cell.” It was now down to Hotham, his cabinet, and their wits to untangle an unfolding national emergency and steer a path back towards stability and democratic order. Only by prevailing in this high-stakes simulation could they hope to prove the system has strength for what future crises may truly bring.

Managing the Mayhem

Inside a makeshift situation room, the chaos unfolded in real-time. For six stressful hours, a team of national figures took the reins of a simulated government during a crisis. Their aim is to steer the country clear of a looming breakdown in democracy.

It started with rumblings of discontent after a close election. Defeated candidate Robert Strickland stoked passions with baseless fraud claims. Then came mass protests and the storming of statehouses. As mobs occupied buildings from Montana to Maryland, the stakes mounted for President John Hotham and his team. Their challenge is to restore order before the flames spread further.

Hotham leaned heavily on veteran advisors. Retired General Linda Singh ran a tight National Guard, though defectors complicated matters. Ex-Senator Doug Jones weighed legal options as crowds ignored curfews. But challenges multiplied faster than solutions. When Strickland supporters began seizing armories, pressure rose on Hotham to invoke harsher measures. Doing so risked a violent reaction, yet not acting allowed the chaos to reign.

Tensions flared in the room. Passionate debates saw good friends clash. As Hotham’s options narrowed, former Governor Bullock gave the role his steady temperament. Behind composed exteriors, everyone felt the weight. Only glimpses of their lives outside offered respite. One adviser spoke of teenage children worrying for the future. Another found solace in past service, protecting the very principles now under threat.

All watched anxiously as simulated news updates arrived. A video showed highway overpasses packed with angry protesters. Social media buzzed with wild rumors and rhetoric, intensifying divisions. The team worked furiously to stay ahead of this “information war.” But restricted to discussion, they felt one step behind the unrest on their screens. It became agonizingly clear: to regain control, they needed to influence hearts and minds, not just policy.

Through it all, Hotham listened to all the counsel. Calm deliberation meets passion with patience. Together, the team explored angles not obvious in the heat of deadlines. Solutions emerged from diverse views cooperating, not clashing. Slowly and steadily, order began to be restored. But as the final minutes ticked in their simulation escape, heavy questions lingered long after for all those charged with holding together the fabric of United States democracy.

 Shadows Over Democracy

The War Game shines a light on some troubling shadows looming over American society. Through their simulated crisis, former leaders grapple with issues that feel all too real. From polarized factions to doubters in the ranks, the film exposes vulnerabilities that could shake democratic foundations.

Few would dispute the rise of division in recent years. As scenarios depict extreme factions storming the seat of government, one can’t help but see parallels to modern movements gaining traction. The film left me wondering how we reach across ever-widening rifts. While passion has its place, the simulation showed where emotions uncoupled from facts can lead a country—a frightening place indeed.

Another shadow involves the online “information wars” waged with few guardrails. Disinformation spreads at pandemic speed online. The simulation highlighted how even experienced leaders struggled to counteract alternate narratives as crises unfolded. Their difficulty keeping pace raised sobering questions about our ability to safeguard the public trust that democracy depends on.

Perhaps most unsettling was how plausibly the film portrayed the possibility of military extremism. Few expect troops sworn to defend the Constitution to turn against it. Yet as perspectives have been shared, the forces of radicalization have begun infiltrating the ranks in disquieting ways. The notion of rogue units aiding insurrection left this viewer wondering if enough focus has been placed on strengthening ideological defenses from within.

By day’s end, the simulation showed even level-headed authorities might feel pressured into drastic options when faced with spiraling events. The film implied that relying on executive powers like martial law risks becoming a self-fulfilling destabilizer. In an age when social contracts face new tests, we must find solutions that uphold order without undermining the freedoms that unite us. Memories of America’s darkest days demonstrate all too vividly where less restrained paths can lead.

In opening a window onto the stressors challenging civic trust, The War Game issues a call for strengthening democracy’s foundations. By addressing tensions laid bare, perhaps there is still time to outmaneuver the shadows and steer toward brighter days. But doing so may require addressing challenges, not with accusations but through acts of understanding and cooperation between all people of goodwill. The fate of the republic may depend on it.

 Operation Insurrection: A Sobering Simulation

War Game takes on an ambitious task: sparking national dialogue about threats to democracy by recreating dark what-ifs. With a behind-the-scenes look at the simulation, directors Jesse Moss and Tony Gerber open a window onto perspectives rarely heard. Their film holds value in lifting concerns that require answering before it’s too late.

Through following politicians and military personnel as they strategize under pressure, we gain insight into real-world expertise addressing real risks. Witnessing debates over proportional responses and how misinformation spreads reveals dynamics demanding attention. With extremism infiltrating the ranks, ensuring ideological defenses proves essential. The exercise highlighted preparedness vulnerabilities that deserve addressing.

Still, certain limitations leave some discussions incomplete. While the simulation explored declaring martial law in a coup, more focus on identifying and confronting radicalization at its roots seemed needed. As insurrectionists preyed on disaffected veterans, examining systemic reforms to compensate service better could have featured. And with propaganda becoming so potent online, better weighing legal and ethical tools to counteract disinformation may have enriched the portrait.

Overall, War Game achieves its aim of igniting consideration of complex national security challenges. Yet the film also shows how compressing multifaceted problems into restrictive scenarios risks overemphasizing reactive tactics over preventative solutions. To fully equip democracies for the dark days ahead, continuing rigorous and nuanced deliberations within communities seems key. If you start conversations, the documentary succeeds. But the work of strengthening social compacts to outpace those wishing to tear them down has only just begun.

 Strengthening Democracy, One Conversation at a Time

War Game tackles an ominous “what if” scenario in a way that sparks thoughtful discussion. While the simulation highlights vulnerabilities, it also shows how bringing diverse views together constructively can help shore up society. The film leaves us with an inspiring yet sobering message: through open yet prudent discourse, democracy remains ours to safeguard.

We learn how extremism can infiltrate even the military’s ranks if societal fractures are left to fester. But we also see politicians and national security experts cooperate in good faith to solve problems under pressure. Their example reminds us that, however divided we may feel, most Americans ultimately want what’s best for their country. When we make an effort to understand opposing views rather than dismiss them, solutions gradually come into focus.

No system is foolproof, and constant vigilance is needed. But with care and compromise, democracies can withstand formidable tests. The War Game proves such challenges need not pull us apart if we commit to hashing things out respectfully. Its candid scenario underscores why keeping lines of communication open between communities remains so important. Only by bringing more voices into the democratic process can we strengthen consensus.

Overall, the film leaves on an uplifting note: as long as good people of conscience keep participating in the tough discussions, the future remains unwritten. With ongoing courage and good faith on all sides, our democratic values can endure whatever storms may test them. The most powerful way to support such values is by continuing the conversations the film inspires.

The Review

War Game

8 Score

In summary, War Game tackles its timely subject matter with aplomb, shedding light on real vulnerabilities while also inspiring hope. Through dramatic recreations and candid interviews, the film stimulates important discussions about strengthening America's democratic framework against formidable threats. While its scenario feels slightly idealized at times, the film ultimately succeeds in its goal of spurring dialogue around uniting a divided nation.


  • Illuminates real national security concerns in an engaging format.
  • Features knowledgeable experts who provide insightful perspectives.
  • Stimulates important discussions about strengthening democracy.
  • Offers hope by modeling constructive cooperation across differences.
  • Accessible to general audiences while broaching complex issues


  • The scenario feels slightly idealized and lacks acknowledgement of extreme risks.
  • Focusing on just one potential response strategy leaves other issues underexplored.
  • Some experts may overestimate the competence of the government of the government in crisis situations.
  • Fails to substantially consider societal polarization-driven threats

Review Breakdown

  • Overall 8
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