Fri 26 Aug 2016
‘War Dogs‘ is the second movie ‘inspired by a true story’ that I have seen in the last 24 hours, and is actually the one that I liked better (the other one being ‘The Infiltrator’). Its film-making style (director Todd Phillips) and its comic thriller approach fit well the month of August. If I am to chose one easier entertainment with no super-heroes or space-ships, and yet a film that raises serious issues this summer, I will recommend it (but of course, I did not see them all).
I am not sure if ‘War Dogs’ will make it to too many Jewish film festivals, but the two lead characters are Jewish or better say one nice Jewish kid (acted by Miles Teller) and a one Jewish trouble-maker kid (acted by Jonah Hill) who meet about one year after high-school. The bad guy is already in weapons trade and he easily convinces the good guy to become an associate. It’s the Bush-Cheney period, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan need arms, and the government seems to have privatized at least part of the guns and ammo supply chain and opened it to free competition. A golden business opportunity for many, including the couple of young entrepreneurs who start small, win bigger and bigger contracts, break more and more moral rules, laws and trade restrictions, move into bigger offices and houses, and ask themselves less and less questions about what is right and what is wrong to do in such business.
The film is fun to watch. There is no great characters development, the characters are from the start to the end what they seem to be when they show up for the first time, but they are enjoyable, and Jonah Hill at least does here his best role on screen to date. Bradley Cooper also shows up in a small but key supporting role. Story telling has pace and humor, although I could have given up the off-screen story telling which tries to provide the personal and somehow moralizing perspective of the good guy. It seems to be a returning fashion in the American cinema which I frankly dislike. It usually hides lack of skills in setting the contest and telling the story, but it was not the case here.
It’s the final titles before the credits, the one that usually relate the characters on screen with the reality of the ‘true story’ and show the real faces of the ‘heroes’ that we have seen acted on screen, that made me click. So these guys, who sold lethal weapons that caused death in the battlefields of Iraq or Afghanistan, who tricked the government and the individuals fighting for what they believe is a just cause got a few years in jail (one of them) and a suspended sentence (the other one) and they are now selling their story in books and movies? Something is broken in our justice systems if the ‘war dogs’ selling illegal weapons to the conflict areas are not punished. This film is not a masterpiece, but at least it causes to some of us to ask the right questions.