Based on the true story of two young men, David Packouz and Efraim Diveroli, who won a $300 million contract from the Pentagon to arm America’s allies in Afghanistan.
‘War Dogs’ is a really entertaining movie about a couple of guys in their 20s who won a multimillion dollar arms contract from the pentagon, in one of these stories that is almost too ridiculous to be true. The two friends are David Packouz (Miles Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), with Packouz our main viewpoint into the story. There are similarities in the style of this film to this year’s ‘The Big Short’ and ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, in the sense that this is another cautionary tale about greed, power, money and unfettered capitalism, with a little bit of commentary about the morally dubious defence trade. It would be giving ‘War Dogs’ too much credit to say it’s an examination of the moral implications of the defence trade, but there are moments of insight here and as an outsider it’s fascinating to watch this story unfold.
The film is slickly directed by Todd Phillips, using a good soundtrack and flashy techniques to detail the complexities of the arms trade whilst not forgetting to make this really entertaining. ‘War Dogs’ starts off as a fun jaunt following two school friends taking advantage of a poorly designed pentagon auction system, before diving into something more sinister as the impact of their actions is brought to the forefront. Diveroli is the man who starts the company (called AEY, not because it stands for anything, but because it sounds professional) and he recruits Packouz into proceedings and shows him how easy it is to bid for small contracts and win them on the pentagon defence wish list. It’s easy to see how Packouz is seduced into the business through the promise of lots of money with no need to get his hands dirty, but of course it isn’t as simple as that and AEY’s dealings start to get wildly out of control as the sums become larger and the jobs become more dangerous.
Jonah Hill is terrific as the manipulative and calculating Efraim, superbly portraying a character who appears to be permanently putting on a façade or a performance. It’s a compelling performance and he makes Efraim a compulsively watchable presence, charming and dangerous in equal measure. ‘Scarface’ and Tony Montana’s rise and fall sits as an interesting backdrop to proceedings, with Efraim frequently quoting the movie and he has a massive poster of the pivotal scene on his office wall. Efraim sees himself as the Tony Montana of this story, but he can only see the power and the money and remains completely oblivious to how it can all fall apart in the end, ironically echoing the character he idolises. Miles Teller is a good straight man, although the voiceover is a little unnecessary at times, in my opinion.
‘War Dogs’ is a super movie with a fascinating narrative and a magnetic performance from Jonah Hill and I highly recommend it.
Directed By: Todd Phillips
Starring: Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Ana de Armas, J. B. Blanc, Bradley Cooper, Barry Livingston, Kevin Pollak, Eddie Jemison and David Packouz