'War, Inc.': Savage Satire Compares to Reality

Maui Time | May 13, 2008
The would-be comic lampoonery, about a time when all wars are outsourced, mirrors the realities of America's corporate-enabled occupation of Iraq. John Cusack plays Hauser, a disaffected hit man sent by a former U.S. Vice President-turned-corporate-shill (played by Dan Aykroyd) to the fictional country of Turaqistan to assassinate an oil magnate known as Omar Sharif. Hauser's cover as the organizer of a U.S. trade show that features state-of-the-art prosthetics, is just enough of a distraction from his actual purpose to seduce a lefty journalist named Natalie Hegalhuzen (Marisa Tomei). Hilary Duff injects the movie with a spunky pitch as Middle East pop star Yonica Babyyeah, who develops a crush on Hauser in spite of her pending wedding to her bodyguard. There are some inspired touches of humor, as when Hauser knocks back shots of straight hot sauce before springing into action, or when he shoves a former boss into a garbage truck, but the comedy never gels.

A recent New York Times article revealed that without the continued support of Blackwater Worldwide, the discredited company responsible for providing trigger-happy security to American diplomats and convoys in Iraq, America's occupation of the country could not continue. Unlike the cold war era when Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) foretold of global annihilation at the hands of phallic-obsessed politicians, War, Inc. comes during a clashing era of climate change and a trademarked war for raw corporate profits.

Enabled by commercial entities ranging from surveillance-complicit phone companies to gouging oil alliances, Americans are increasingly treated like host bodies ready to be sucked dry.

This isn't to say that War, Inc. couldn't have been a funnier movie, merely that the writers (Mark Leyner, Jeremy Pikser, and John Cusack) had a more complicated job cut out for them. John Cusack's Hauser is just as concerned with creature comforts as any SUV-driving suburban mom is. In one of the film's most inspired moments a super-caffeinated whoa-yelling soldier derails Hauser's impending public hit on Omar Sharif in order to give the assassin his newly cleaned laundry. Hauser is glad to get his clothes, and nonplussed about missing the opportunity to fulfill his assignment. The poor soldier is stuck in a permanent state of radically elevated excitement. He's recognizable as a walking war causality unable to ever return to civilian life regardless of any political outcome. The scene is notable for the feeling of resentment it evokes for the audience at Hauser's ineffectiveness as a hit man. We want to see Hauser kill Omar Sharif, for no reason other than to see the murder happen.

But after relating to Hauser's calm at getting his laundry delivered, our focus shifts to similar ideas of material comfort and we accept him for being easily sated like us. The problem with War, Inc. is that commerce, fear, and military occupation, are already inextricably linked to the way Americans live their daily lives. There's no longer a separation between the way American citizens are treated by cops and the way Iraqi civilians are treated by military police. No matter how dark your sense of humor, the Bush Administration's joke has become a harsh reality. There's no spark of humor when you're staring into an abyss.

Rated R, 107 mins. (C+)

Maui Time

Maui Time Weekly provides insightful analysis and in depth reporting. We believe some issues are so important they require thoughtful consideration. We are not a “paper of record”—a daily journal of government meetings, ribbon-cuttings and corporate announcements. We decide what’s...
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