War Dogs: Truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction

<em>War Dogs</em>: Truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction

Miles Teller and Jonah Hill find themselves over their heads in War Dogs.

After years of somber movies and documentaries about America’s war on terror, director Todd Phillips (The Hangover) offers a comedic, satirical take in the fact-based film, War Dogs. With the war in Iraq raging on, Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) offers childhood friend David Packouz (Miles Teller) a chance to make big bucks by becoming an international arms dealer. Together, they exploit a government initiative that allows small businesses to bid on U.S. military contracts. Starting small allows the duo to rake in money and live the high life. They soon find themselves in over their heads after landing a $300 million deal to supply Afghan forces, a deal that puts them in business with some very shady people.

Sometimes life is indeed stranger than fiction. Who would have thought that two 20-something small time stoners in Miami would hit the big time by bidding – and winning – military contracts to basically run guns to American allies in the Middle East? The film is based on the 2011 Rolling Stone article, “The Stoner Arms Dealers: How Two American Kids Became Big-Time Weapons Traders.” The movie takes you on a ride. You can’t help but get swept up in the thrill these guys are feeling when they start raking in even more money than they could have imagined. The fact that they are basically scamming the U.S. government at the same time only adds to the thrill. If this wasn’t a true story, you wouldn’t believe that this could actually happen.

The backstory of how the film came to be is equally as fascinating. To conduct research, screenwriter Stephen Chin snuck in with smugglers through the insurgent-controlled Al Anbar “Triangle of Death.” Posing as an Asian computer geek from California, he was able to enter the Green Zone, the Republican Palace, Fallujah and Baghdad. No one ever questioned his cover story. Chin later spent a month with David Packouz in Miami before adapting Guy Lawson’s Rolling Stone article into the screenplay. Who would have thought that it would be so easy to sneak into a war zone?

After the guys are living the high life with their newfound wealth, the stakes raise considerably. Whether it’s just the IRS or the DMV, we’ve all dealt with frustrating government red tape and shady characters. When you’re an arms dealer working with many governments, the amount of red tape you endure and the shadiness of the characters you encounter is multiplied. Bradley Cooper cameos as one of the shady characters Diveroli and Packouz encounters.

War Dogs is at once both a morality tale and cautionary tale. The problem with most morality and cautionary tales is that they beat you over the head with the message. Sure, you know what they’re doing is wrong, but you’re having so much fun as you take the ride with them that you almost don’t care. Even the slightly ambiguous ending doesn’t completely wrap up the movie with a nice little morality bow. Who would have thought that one of the most entertaining movies of the summer would be a satirical take on the wars in the Middle East?

War Dogs opens in theaters August 19th.

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