Published Apr 25, 2008Satire, like war, can be a tricky business. War, Inc. works hard to poke fun at the emerging trend of privatised corporate military contractors in a light-hearted way, often sidestepping the darker humour of the situation in favour of silly, Mel Brooks-style gags. The laughs, for the most part, are simple and obvious, taking pot shots at American imperialism in a fictionalised version of Iraq without risking offending the audience by pushing the limits of good taste.
When Brand Hauser (John Cusack), a contract killer working for a private American military company, is hired to assassinate the Middle Eastern oil commissioner, he must pose as a trade show producer in order to get close to his target. While undercover, Hauser is charged with organising the Brand USA trade show taking place in the midst of war-torn Turaquistan. There, he meets do-gooder reporter Natalie Hegalhuzen (Marisa Tomei) and begins to question his role in international corporate invasions.
The U.S.s use of private military contractors, such as the Blackwater company, has been the subject of much criticism but War, Inc. never takes off the kid gloves and really tackles the twisted reality of the subject. Instead, the story focuses on the lives of the characters and relegates the satire to the background, squandering a chance to create a daring and humorous condemnation of modern mercenary corporations.
Despite its soft touch, War, Inc. works as an amusing romantic comedy that happens to be set in an odd location. The story never reaches the over-the-top, Team America-style satire that audiences have come to expect, but fans of the kinder, gentler satire of Mel Brooks will find War, Inc. a welcome change to the in-your-face absurdity of modern pop culture. (VVS)