There was a time when documentarians took it upon themselves to research on high-impact world issues and unveil the dirt from underneath the carpet. We live in a much more glorious time now where mainstream film-makers have started adapting such subjects to bring to us what we would like to call as Economedy – an elegant balance between economics and comedy. You might even have a fleeting argument on how it is different from satire. Well, satire usually is founded upon true subjects we admit but is depicted in a fantastical fashion with conjured up characters in exaggerated caricatures, the best instances would be films like Borat (also written by Phillips) or The Dictator, both starring the incredibly talented Sacha Baron Cohen. On the other hand, Economedies have real characters and would have almost been a documentary but for the tangy citric aftertaste thanks to the subtle humour embedded throughout and some scenes fictionalised for effect.
We live in a much more glorious time now where mainstream film-makers have started adapting such subjects to bring to us what we would like to call as Economedy – an elegant balance between economics and comedy.
War Dogs takes us behind the scenes into the other side of war, a side which portrays war as a business playing field and not a “service to our nation” or a propagation of patriotism. The introductory primer about this reality of war narrated by David Packouz, played by Miles Teller, bluntly uncovers the political packaging of wars with a deeply profound statement (not sic) – “What do you see when you see a soldier ? Patriotism, upholding American values ? Well, I see a Helmet worth x dollars, a gun worth y dollars, etc…”Although most of us despise war and its aftermath, there are businesses who depend on wars and make money out of it.
David Packouz and his best friend Efraim Diveroli, played by Johah Hill, are 20 something Arms dealers who scour the US Govt. Defense websites which regularly publish open tenders and contracts, to identify the ones which they can fulfill through their local unlicensed arms supplier connections.
We follow the story through Packouz’s eyes who initially works odd jobs trying to sell bedsheets or massaging rich clients in Miami to make ends meet. He stumbles into his old high-school best friend Diveroli at a funeral and gets to know about his successful arms business. Diveroli extends a proposal to his friend to become his trustworthy Business partner with a 30% share of the total earnings. Considering his situation at the time, Packouz finds it impossible to decline such an attractive offer. They start earning loads of money on small deals through a bogus firm named AEY Inc.which is essentially a small one room office with this picture of Al Pacino’s Scarface on the wall.
After landing a large Beretta contract with the US Army in Iraq, they realise their ambitions and start playing a bigger game for large contracts. However, they have now developed a reputation in the market and have come under the radar of a seasoned arms dealer Henry Girard, played by you’ll-find-out. Things start getting complicated as their connections seem insufficient and logistics becomes a challenge. Girard understands this and approaches them to with a “decent” proposal. What they don’t realise that they were actually shaking hands with the devil.
Written by Phillips along with Jason Smilovic and Stephen Chin, the narrative is brilliantly exhilarating and crisp without a single dip in the pace of the story.
Written by Phillips along with Jason Smilovic and Stephen Chin, the narrative is brilliantly exhilarating and crisp without a single dip in the pace of the story. Teller and Hill’s chemistry is authentic with amazing consistency. Each significant turn of the story is preceded by a title which essentially defines that part with a quote that would come from one of the characters. One of our favourite parts was “God bless Cheney’s America” wherein Packouz and Diveroli are riding in a truck from Jordan towards Iraq to personally deliver a consignment of Berettas. On the way their trail is picked up by armed militants who start chasing them all the while shooting incessantly at them as they try to escape on their rundown truck. As they reach near the US military zone, out of no where some American choppers appear and start shooting at the militants forcing them to turn back. As the tables are turned, the harried screams of both characters turn into maniacal laughter as Diveroli screams – ” God bless Cheney’s America !” leaving the audience in splits. Besides the obvious comic situation, this scene also directs a jab at the idea of America propagated by the Bush and Cheney administration – America the bully big brother.
Miles Teller and Jonah Hill are phenomenal in their comic personification of such a despicable profession which they play with elan especially Hill who has a don’t-give-a-crap attitude and has eccentric mannerisms which are hilarious to watch. Teller’s transformation from a mild mannered struggling masseuse to a confident arms dealer is a treat to watch. It’s interesting to note that these two actors were not the first choice for the film. Phillips had initially wanted Jesse Eisenberg and Shia Lebouf to play the parts but Eisenberg was already committed to BvS and this forced Phillips to rethink the chemistry. We are glad he did. Hill and Teller make a much bigger impact as oddballs, both through their acting as well as their appearance as a whole.
Phillips brings the much loved chemistry and timing between characters from his earlier widely popular Hangover Trilogy and takes it one step forward. Reminiscent of the style of The Big Short which won much critical acclaim last year, War Dogs is refreshing and blatantly brings reality into your attention. It takes us behind the façade of political nationalism and shows us the ugly face of the booming arms business which drives the World economy.
gobblpoint: One of the most hilarious and inventive films we have seen in a long time. Witty and true to the core.
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