It's January 6, 2025, and the President of the United States watches, horrified, as his rival, defeated by a small margin, calls on the Armed Forces to help him reverse the result of a “fraudulent” election. The scene is from “War Game”, a new documentary released on Tuesday (23) at the Sundance Film Festival. The work features real former employees of the American government, as well as the Army, in a kind of RPG without an argument that recreates another eventual assault on the United States Capitol. For its filmmakers, the scenario is far from absurd, as it evokes the events of January 6, 2021. The difference, this time, is that corrupt police and soldiers are joining the protests across the country. “It's scary how current the film continues to be,” says co-director Jesse Moss. “And I worry about how current it might be over the next year,” he added. In the film, former Montana governor Steve Bullock takes on the role of the president of the United States, who has six hours to decide how to confront a coup attempt that is moving full steam ahead. His advisors are played by real-life characters, such as American senators, agents from the FBI (the US Federal Police) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), military colonels and even a former commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. (NATO or NATO). Everyone gathers in a carefully designed war room – inspired by Stanley Kubrick's “Dr. Strange Love” – and receives updates and reports from the Secret Service, social media and fictional news channels. “That was, for six hours, a real experience for all of us,” Bullock told France-Presse. “It was a stressful environment (…) no one was thinking there were cameras there,” he added.
Simultaneously, a fictional paramilitary group called the “Order for Colombus,” played by American veterans, was meeting elsewhere to spread misinformation online and encourage soldiers to break ranks. . The “role-playing exercise” (a technique for simulating real events) was inspired by a column written by three American generals in The Washington Post newspaper in 2021. In the text, they warned about growing extremism within the Armed Forces and made an appeal to the Army to prepare for a possible insurrection after the 2024 election. “A disturbing number of Army veterans and service members were part of the attack on the Capitol,” the column noted. “The idea that corrupt units organize to support the 'legitimate' commander in chief cannot be ruled out,” the generals wrote. Vet Voice, a foundation representing Army veterans and their families, decided to carry out the exercise. They agreed to allow cameras in for the documentary and delivered a report on the exercise to the White House, Congress and the Pentagon. “The only response they have received so far is a 'thank you' from the government,” said Vet Voice executive director Janessa Goldbeck. “There are many friends within the administration who work on this issue, but it is controversial,” she added. “There is a lot of criticism that it is disrespectful to our troops and our veterans to talk about this topic,” Goldbeck added.
Although “War Game” uses fictional candidates, it's hard not to associate former President Donald Trump's influence on the proceedings. At one point, during a debate over whether or not to invoke the Insurrection Act – which allows the president to use federal troops to reinforce authority – Trump's name is mentioned by two “advisers”. Trump has hinted that he will expand the role of the U.S. military if he wins a second term. Additionally, he faces trial for conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election, in which he was defeated by Democrat Joe Biden. The filmmakers of “War Game” emphasize that Trump was “on the periphery” at the time of filming, more than a year ago, and that Republican and Democratic figures participated in it. Moss says that the forces that led to the events of January 6, 2021, such as political polarization and the “alternative reality, which some seem to dwell in, (…) transcend Donald Trump.” He added, however, that Trump put himself in the spotlight. “I think the threats we recreate in the film are credible, terrifying and very real,” he added.