War, Inc. ***1/2/****Joshua Seftel’s first film – a satire of memorable proportions – is about just as the title suggests: The corporations effect on War.
The film is about a mercenary (John Cusack) traveling to Turaqistan (not a real country, fyi) to help the American government ‘get their message across’ to Turaqistan’s leaders. He meets a reporter (Marisa Tomei) and we all know what will ensue with a lonely man + a hot reporter. Somewhere in the mix, a pop star named Yonica Babyyeah gets thrown in. As Yonica is marrying one of Turaquistan’s most important people (a son of the president), a subplot is created where the mercenary must watch over this star, well, somewhat. The film starts off with a lonely Cusack in a bar; no more than fifteen seconds later, the film hooks you. With it’s amusing and intriguing insight on terrorism and politics, the film’s running time blows by you. The film has a lot more action than I expected, with the occasional scene of war, well choreographed fights and just sporadic scenes of murder. Though the story isn’t much deep, the simplicity of it all makes the film perfect for both the common man and movie critics alike.
In the final act of the film, the simplicity of it all turns very hostile and jumbled. I thought it was executed very well, but other may disagree, and I could understand why. Twist after twist is what the ending is all about, and like most films, it is a true hit/miss situation. Regardless, the three writers on the film (Mark Leyner, Jeremy Pikser & John Cusack) did a fantastic job creating a realistic and entertaining satire on today’s situation overseas.
Joshua Seftel does an excellent job insuring the film’s integrity; not reducing the material to the most redundant of films (which I was afraid would happen). Seftel crafted the film as perfectly as one could: he created a vibrant atmosphere, one that is both examines harsh reality and cartoonish falsities; – contrasting them perfectly – as well as making the film feel as if you were watching it all. Seftel really gets you involved in all of the action and it pays off completely. No missteps here. Hopefully, he takes on more directorial jobs, for he is one director to look out for.
The cast was superb; a top contender for a year end ensemble nomination.A small note: Ben Kingsley isn’t in it much, but he is great, as usual. Joan Cusack plays one of the most annoying character I’ve ever seen. Thank God she isn’t important to the film at all. Ned Bellamy is very good. Lyubomir Neikov is great. In fact, if you love small, untalked about supporting roles, Neikov’s performance is one of the best of those I’ve seen in awhile.
Marisa Tomei plays Natalie the reporter. She doesn’t tread much new water with this performance, but I did like her a fair bit. Sure, she starts off a bit irritating at the start, but as the main character warms up to her, the viewer does as well. All I feel like talking about is the finale of the film, which was where she really stood out. In 1 minute flat, she goes from shell-shocked reporter to… something else. Trust me, if you love it, you’ll love her.
Hilary Duff plays Yonica Babyyeah. As everyone is/was, I just assumed this would be an overblown, cheesy, annoying performance by another teeny-bopper of this decade. I’ll be the first to say (well, perhaps not the FIRST, but the first I’ve seen) that she was great. Her role is basically ‘woe is me, get me some caviar, I am rich, bitch!’ but because of the great writing, there is much deeper meaning to all of her actions. She throws out an almost Russian accent, which is well done, and since we don’t know where she comes from (though, I have a suspicion that she comes from Turaqistan. If you’ve seen it, confirm it for me, please) The best part about Duff’s performance is her energy in the role. She plays a total pop-star perfectly, and although she is a TV/Pop-star, this character is so far off what she’s played before and how her personality is, it isn’t even fair to put her persona and the character’s persona side by side with ‘oh god, it’s just the same thing, no effort involved at all!’ in mind.
John Cusack stars in the film (as you probably know by now) and he is perfect. Honestly, I was skeptical, as this role seemed quite opposite to his usual role. He pulled it off with such intensity that when he felt ‘hurt’, I felt ‘hurt’. He plays the mercenary named Hauser, and he really throws himself into the role. His fight scenes are some of the best one-on-one combat scenes I’ve seen as of late (excluding Jason Bourne’s explosions, of course). I guess when an actor writes his own material, he knows what he is doing. Brilliant performance; if you love Cusack, check it out just for him.
On a small note, there are three technical aspect I’d like to discuss.The first is the cinematography. Although the cinematographer, Zoran Popovic, isn’t very known, he does an excellent job. His work on the film just misses my top five of the year, but there are some scenes that reminisce Elswit’s work on Jarhead. Hopefully he takes on some more war films.
The second is the editing of the film. The pacing is a main reason why the film worked so well. Without Berenbaum’s great work, the film could’ve been a disaster. Also, I love a lot of the transitions between scenes. His style is so unique and cool. Good stuff.
The final note are the songs. We get a glimpse of three of Yonica’s songs; two as a star. Oh man, the lyrics are so funny. I believe I Want to Blow You Up will stay in my top ten till years end. It’s such an odd song, but it’s just so funny.