Less than one hour into War, Inc., four clearly agitated audience members left the movie theatre. As they made their way, shaking their heads, up the aisle and out the door, I heard them mumbling âeoenonsenseâe and âeoebullshit.âe
The official line is that War, Inc. is set in the near future. Upon closer inspection, one could easily argue that what it depicts exists now in the wargasmic fantasies of those who would have us live in a world ruled by anti-democratic disaster capitalism where sovereignty belongs to none other than the corporation(s) that run the state.
Co-written by Mark Leyner, Jeremy Pikser (who brought us the brilliant Bulworth) and John Cusack, War, Inc. is a political satire, Western love story and dynastic drama rolled into one. In other words, War, Inc. is about the privatization of war, the military-industrial complex, the commodification and manipulation of diverse cultures into one homogenized for-profit brand of âeoecultureâe and the gross exploitation/pornification of women. In essence, it speaks to the reality that, when a societyâe(TM)s only ideal is profit, that society then faces the depths of moral bankruptcy.
Through the exceptional performances of Dan Aykroyd, Joan Cusack (as hysterical as ever), John Cusack, Hillary Duff, Sir Ben Kingsley and Marisa Tomei, we watch as Brand Hauser (John Cusack) makes his way to the imaginary country of Turaqistan. The country is occupied by an American private corporation, run by a former U.S. Vice President (Aykroyd playing a nauseatingly-larger-than-life Dick Cheney character).
In order to profit from the destruction inflicted upon Turaqistan, Mr. Vice President hires Hauser to assassinate a Turaqistani oil minister while he (Hauser) maintains cover as a trade show producer. A character typical of Cusackâe(TM)s nuanced delivery, Brand Hauser is an assassin struggling with the amorality of his life and his âeoejob,âe while inflicting self-mutilation by way of digesting shots of high-caliber hot sauce.
The journey of Hauser takes us into a jaw-dropping shoot-âe~em-up, led by none other than machine-gun-toting Yonica Babyyeah (Duff, who, earlier in the film, drops a live scorpion down her pants). The branded and pornified woman, the very object of manipulation turned revolutionary. You can bet your movie ticket price that Disney never saw this one coming.
Though War, Inc. is neither the first instance of art to address the brazen private profiteering from the war in Iraq, nor is it presenting new ideas, it has generated an awesome amount of attention and feedback among progressives. Interestingly, the folks responsible for War, Inc. promoted this film primarily through grassroots e-activism/e-advertising such as a Facebook profile (search: Brand Hauser), and a MySpace page. This turning away from the corporate film industry itself might reflect a conscious decision of the filmmakers to walk their own talk.
War, Inc. speaks truth to power and to the narrative of morality that would tell you the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan are righteous, indeed necessary and legitimate. Standing in opposition to such fabricated narratives, War, Inc. is neither apologetic nor kind to its audience. In fact, it is brutal, aggressive and (rightfully) offensive in its delivery, scarring our senses with the image of a line of dancing female amputees kicking out with their shiny new prosthetic legs.
And why not? We exist at a time when access to information trumps anyoneâe(TM)s tired excuse that they simply didnâe(TM)t know what was really happening. Indeed, War, Inc. seems to exhaust its audience; while watching this film as a progressive, the overall feeling is one of tension combined with the recurring question: âeoeare we really still talking about this shit? Are we really still protesting this bullshit? And how, how, how can you still believe that the current wars are righteous and how are you not completely outraged? How can you walk out on this movie?âe(TM)
Today, the role of news media has changed. Where once it was a foundational characteristic of the democratic state to be challenged by the majority of its journalists, to be kept in check by them and thus accountable to its citizens, that is no longer the case.
And so in many instances, the duty to challenge, provoke and expose has fallen solely upon the shoulders of the artist. And War, Inc. executes that obligation with boldness, forcing its audiences to challenge and investigate their own roles as manipulated spectators.
Although many have described War, Inc. as âeoeabsurdâe in its approach, it is anything but. In fact, this film is among the most intelligent and rational of the challenges made to the policies of the current U.S. administration and the âeoefor-profitâe lifestyle that has invaded and overcome our morality.
Simply put, War, Inc. is a responsible movie with brains and heart and one more worthy of your attention than the current crop of opiates distributed by Hollywood.
It has been labelled a satire and a dark comedy, and although it is indeed these and more besides, War, Inc., perhaps more importantly, may be viewed as a call to Intifadah: a call for us to awaken and reclaim the sovereignty belonging to us and not to those who would step over our bleeding bodies for a fistful of dollars.
War, Inc. will be available on DVD on October 14, 2008.