Ingenuity is the mother of invention (or something like that). Since movies being harsh on the war in Iraq and on the current administration of the United States have been bombing (no pun intended) stupendously at the box office, writers Mark Leyner, Jeremy Pikser and John Cusack came up with a nifty idea – satirize the war. Instead of making War, Inc. a staunch, in your face anti-war/government diatribe, they’ve lessened the blow by making the whole situation into a cruel and ridiculous romp that you can laugh at while hanging your head in despair.
War, Inc. takes place in Turaquistan – the first country to be invaded and occupied by a corporate run army under the employ of the United States government. The reasons for the “liberation” are simple; it was waged in the name of the war on terror, the desire for oil supplies and so the company vice-president (Dan Aykroyd) now works for, Tamerlane Corporation, can make a shitload of money rebuilding the country. The administration has one little problem though – Omar Sharif (Lyubomir Neikov). He’s the CEO of a competing oil conglomerate and he’s decided to build his own oil pipeline through the country snubbing all the hard work put into this exercise by the U.S. government. Their solution of course is to have him eliminated by cleanup man extraordinaire Brand Hauser (John Cusack).
He has no idea what he’s getting into. Upon his arrival in the worn torn country he’s besieged with American excess and greed that border on absurdity. Tanks are rolling billboards for Coca-Cola and Golden Palace. While 90% of the country is in ruins, American franchises have sprung up like weeds in the Green Zone (the only safe spot in the country). Propaganda posters espousing the American dream are neatly hung on dilapidated buildings. Then there are the people he meets. Aside from the hyper soldiers everywhere, the three vying for his time are:
His watchdog, Marsha Dillon (Joan Cusack), a stressed out corporate drone. She strictly toes the line, even though she doesn’t believe half of the shit coming out of her mouth. It was clear the role was written for Joan, as it mirrors every character she has ever played – loud, annoying and over-the-top. Reinvigorated Marisa Tomei (see Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead) is a snoopy reporter named Natalie Hegalhuzen. She’s in the movie to offer a romance flair and to antagonize Hauser enough to get him to rethink the morality of his line of work. Then there is the young, misunderstood sex kitten Yonica Babyyeah, played by Hilary Duff. She is being used as a pawn of corporate interests, and Hauser feels the nurturing need to protect her like his daughter. I never thought these words would exit my mouth, but little Miss Lizzie McGuire steals the spotlight. Yeah, her accent could use some work, but she’s got that stripper persona down 1000%. Nice!
My main peeve with War, Inc. is that it gets confused on how it wants to come across. Director Joshua Seftel, allows the movie to jump from outright ridiculousness in one scene to dramatic seriousness in another. This happens more towards the end of the movie, where I suspect he felt he needed to makes sure the audience was indeed watching an anti-war film. These unneeded instances are what caused other movies critical of the government and the war to push away audiences and ultimately fail. It was unnecessary and left a bit of grime in my mouth.
Overall, however, the way the film attacks the subject is a breath of fresh air. It ain’t no Dr. Strangelove or to a more extreme extent Team America: World Police, but it does manage to make the matter easier to digest. Kudos for being the first movie to be able to do that in a long time.