The 1992 presidential campaign was the first I can recall. At the age of 8, I wasn’t exactly the target audience of the nominees, but there was an unprecedented call for young people to engage in the political system—MTV’s “Rock the Vote” commercials are still fresh in my mind. Couple in Bill Clinton as perhaps the first pop culture friendly candidate [the brilliant SNL sketches, the saxophone, etc.] and this was an event that really geared me up to vote. Still, as most voters today, I only consumed information on the candidates and the race based on what I chose to watch or read. In the grand scheme of things, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The year after Bill Clinton won the election, iconic documentary filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker released their look into the insane weeks behind the scenes. The War Room is a landmark documentary, unique in the depth it provides in a world so rarely seen. Even as the process has become more transparent and on the 24-hour news cycle, it is refreshing to how a campaign works without the inevitable spin and over-analyzation.

In a lot of ways, the political climate in ‘92 was a lot simpler than today. The most important issues were the cornerstones: the economy and education [with a little war mixed in, of course], issues that have rarely been broached this election season, replaced by terrorism, technology, and scandal. Then again, there were also many similarities as shown in The War Room. Obviously, there was a Clinton on the ticket; focus on the issues were skewed a bit [but not to the same degree] by a sexual scandal; there was also an ultra contentious primary, with a candidate unwilling to concede and uncertainty headed into the conventions—like Ted Cruz this year, Democratic runner-up Jerry Brown vowed to speak his mind at the DNC. Finally, third party candidates were active in the national discourse, with thoughts and fears that they could sway the result.

The War Room starts in the middle of the action with Clinton in a difficult fight for the Democratic nomination, setting up the film’s form. There isn’t any real identifiable structure, just moments all building to election night. There aren’t timestamps or narration setting the stage at any particular moment. With its purely observational style, The War Room zips through the campaign, more of a pastiche than a historical account. This may not be the conventional way to make a documentary, but it is unquestionably the best way to capture the unique energy of a campaign, The fly-on-the-wall approach doesn’t actively influence the conversations, speeches, or off-the-cuff reactions, giving the film a much more natural tone.

Sure, a traditional talking heads doc could build a better story or more coherent analysis, but that’s clearly not what the filmmakers cared to capture. “Capture” is actually an accurately descriptive word for the way The War Room flows, as opposed to what another film may try to craft. Hegedus and Pennebaker are much more interested in finding the interesting moments that organically come from the dynamic people on camera, and there are plenty of them—one of my favorites: James Carville’s jokingly disgusted reaction when told the beer on special is Busch.

This loose structure doesn’t mean there isn’t genuine substance, however, even if the biggest takeaway is the film’s totality. The focus on Clinton’s two chief strategists, “Ragin’ Cajun” James Carville and future Good Morning America co-anchor George Stephanopoulos gives something to hold onto from scene to scene and they both come off as the political superstars they would soon become. Both shine throughout their work. Carville firing up volunteer staff to give it their all is just as compelling as Stephanopoulos completely destroying a Ross Perot staffer who is threatening to release a tabloid-level scoop on Clinton. The film seems to capture the genesis of every slogan and talking point that pushed Clinton to the win. At the periphery of the film we also meet Mary Matalin, one of George H.W. Bush’s top aides and the wife of Carville. She becomes one of the most compelling figures in the film for her contrast to her husband and her passionate attacks on Clinton—bringing her in through news footage actually helps balance the political scale, which probably isn’t necessary but is welcome.

Overall, The War Room is a wonderful document of a political era and the entire political process. Even 23 years later it is unique in its approach and access. Of course there have been other documentaries to take this behind-the-scenes approach, and some good ones at that [Our Brand Is Crisis—no, not the Sandra Bullock on—and the completely underseen Mitt are fine examples], but none are as special as The War Room. Hegedus & Pennebaker’s observational mastery is on full display, they disappear from the scene but keep their watchful eye for moments big and small. So, if you’re still on an election kick and you want sometime a little more serious and substantive than Election, The War Room is a must see.