War Dogs (2016)

Every once in a while I go see a movie I know very little about, and probably wouldn’t have bothered with if not for (a) someone else making the choice, and (b) a cinema pass (i.e. ‘free’ movies!). So it was with War Dogs – sure, I’d seen the trailer, and actually, I’d thought “hell no”. But pickings were slim, and so it was.

Following a scandal around defence contracts being awarded (ahem) less than fairly, a public procurement scheme is set up by the American government. Thus, 20-somethings like Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) can bid for the ‘crumbs’ – and these crumbs can be worth millions.

The plot picks up with Efraim recruiting old school friend David (Miles Teller), a laid back stoner and war protester who manages to eschew morals for cold hard cash when life suddenly gets complicated. As the business gains momentum, the pair go from searching the internet list and making phone calls to finding themselves far deeper into danger. Is it that taste of adrenaline that sends them making riskier and riskier decisions?

Having known very little about this moving going in, it came as a surprise to me to read afterwards that it was at least partly billed as a comedy – from the director of The Hangover no less (which explains the Bradley Cooper ‘cameo’ role). Well, just no: this is a drama with a vein of blackest humour, but it is not a comedy in any respects. Perhaps that explains why the tone felt a little weird at times, though.

The emphasis is far more on David and his family life as he gets sucked deeper into everything, plus the relationship between the two leads. The moments of high action – like the trip through the Iraqi ‘triangle of death’ – are odd islands in a movie otherwise far more domestic, but then I guess that was the point: war happens elsewhere, it’s slightly unreal while you’re sitting behind a computer.

Overall I’d describe War Dogs as an entertaining, solid enough look at the Iraq/Afghan wars from a slightly different angle than most movies. There’s no glorification here – from the opening we are told that this is war as business and financial profiteering. The “I didn’t mean to be an immoral arms dealer” angle is a little trite, perhaps, and the story more than a little one sided, but at the same time scarily plausible for this ‘based on a true story’ tale.

Released: 26th August 2016
Viewed: 26th August 2016
Running time: 114 minutes
Rated: 15

My rating: 6/10

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