Film Review: War Dogs (Todd Phillips, 2016) ★★★★

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(Image Source - courtesy of Warner Bros)
Set in Florida in 2005, David Packouz (Miles Teller) is a down-and-out massage therapist who becomes a multi-millionaire when he teams up with a high-school friend, Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), supplying weapons to the U.S. government. 

(Image source - courtesy of Warner Bros)
Directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover, 2009) and produced by Bradley Cooper, War Dogs is a rags to riches tale in which we see the true story of David (Teller) - a down on his luck massage therapist who sunk his life savings in to bed sheets he can't sell. Whilst attending a funeral in his home town, he reconnects with an old school friend, Efraim (Hill), a larger than life wannabe entrepreneur who agrees to let David in on his latest business venture. As David narrates us through this stylised vision of corporate crime, it isn't long before the duo have expanded their office in to a multi-million dollar arms dealing business and secured the biggest gig of their lives - a $300 million government contract supplying weapons to the U.S. allies in Afghanistan with the help of wanted man, Henry Girard (Bradley Cooper).

(Image source - courtesy of Warner Bros)
Presented as a comedy, for which Phillips is primarily famed for, War Dogs actually presents a far more serious subject matter. Opening to scenes from the Iraq front, we are given a run down of the sheer cost of an American soldier for which each is supplied with $17,500 worth of kit. Multiply that by the eight million soldiers deployed and you've got some serious figures at the hands of the private arms contractors President Bush welcomed in the 2000s. The more shocking part of the narrative, of course, being that two twenty-something stoners were able to get in on the deal and get away with it for so long. So while there are plenty of laughs to be had at some highly amusing moments, War Dogs is not to be sniggered at.

(Image source - courtesy of Warner Bros.)
Jonah Hill is a major part of what War Dogs so pleasing. As Efraim - an utterly dislikable yet very entertaining character, Hill once again shows his versatility as both a serious and comedic actor. Hill is able to keep us on our toes throughout as we battle with deciding whether or not he is genuine. There times when his role diverts back to The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2014) which first showcased Hill's abilities within an antagonistic role. Similarly, War Dogs allows Hill to transition from wannabe gangster with a Scarface poster on his wall to full-on firing an AK-47 centre screen. Hill literally steals the show at gunpoint. Teller as David, however, presents a more bias protagonist of the two who whilst Efraim on his path of bad decisions, maintains a faint voice of reason yet always driven by a want to provide for his family. Ultimately, Teller offers a solid performance and it is clear that the duo have chemistry though Hill's performance certainly dulls any potential shine Teller could have had. 

(Image source - courtesy of Warner Bros.)
There do appear to be times when War Dogs is unsure of it's own identity and it struggles to balance the topic of war against a glamour portrayal of a criminal lifestyle; appearing to draw it's inspiration from Phillip's The Hangover, The Big Short (Adam McKay, 2015) and, of course, The Wolf of Wall Street. Much like Scorsese also, the film is heavily led by male roles with only one prominent female character being David's pregnant and disapproving girlfriend (Ana de Armas) who is criminally underwritten. Presented only as a mild cause for concern down the phone, her role seems futile and emerges rather forgettable. With the right style, dark wit and even one of it's leading stars, War Dogs so nearly accomplishes what it sets out to do yet it falls just a little short of Scorsese greatness - let down only by it's video music-like slow motion scenes and overall cinematography. In it's entirety, however, it is highly entertaining in it's own right and stands firmly on its own. 

(Image source - courtesy of Warner Bros.)
Overall, War Dogs emerges as a true success for Phillips as he enters in to the realms of dramatic storytelling and in to the big boy leagues. Hill shines as an obnoxious hustler amongst a truly meaningful and compelling true story - even if it does lose itself in parts along the way. War Dogs gets a Sophie star rating of 4 out of 5 stars and hits UK cinemas on August 26th. 
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Well, that's it for another film review. What do you think of War Dogs? Will you be seeing it in cinemas this week? As usual, I love reading your thoughts so please do leave me lots of lovely comments below. Thanks so much to Warner Bros. for allowing me to see this amazing movie ahead of time - I really do hope you all get out to see it and enjoy it as much as I did. 

Until next time movie-goers, 

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12 comments:

  1. I really want to see this one! Great review :)


    xo, Liz
    http://lipstickandconfetti.com

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    1. Ah I hope you love it as much as I did! You'll have to tell me what you make of it xx

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  2. Sounds like a great movie to watch this weekend. Jonah Hill is always very funny and I've enjoyed pretty much all movies he's been in!
    Pam xo/ Pam Scalfi♥

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    1. Yeah I think it's out on the 26th - just in time for the weekend! He's so awesome in it x

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  3. Sounds interesting! I'm glad it's not an outright comedy as from the trailers, that what I believed it was!

    Meg | Elmpetra

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    1. Yeah no definitely. It's sold very much as a comedy but there are some quite profound moments in there - it's really well done xx

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  4. Stories about corruption and fraud fascinate me so I'll check this movie out soon :) Thanks for the review, Sophie!

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    1. Oh good! I think you'll love this then. It was a little bit long in some parts but overall its amazing - hope you enjoy! You'll have to let me know what you think :)

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    2. Yes, I really did enjoy this so thank you again for the recommendation, Sophie :) I thought the acting from both leads was very good and some of the criticisms about this movie puzzle me a bit. Maybe critics were thinking it would be like the Hangover movies? I read the Rolling Stone article that details the story behind the movie so that helped me in understanding the fictionalization of some parts of the story. I find it interesting about the bad faith on the part of the US government and corruption (kickbacks) in Albania (in the Rolling Stone article) but maybe it was better not to include it in the movie because it would complicate and make the story more boring in the cinematic sense.

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    3. Yeah I think for the purposes of keeping it enjoyable and light it probably skimmed over a lot of the details but I don't think it takes anything away from it. You get the overall jist too. Glad you enjoyed it :)

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  5. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this, particularly as I left the cinema feeling a little lacklustre about it. I was pumped to see Teller in something (as the last film I'd seen him in was Whiplash) but totally agree that Hill steals the spotlight, despite Teller being the narrator. I swear I could hear Efraim's laugh replaying in my head for hours afterwards, haha. I would loved to have seen more of Ana de Armas character too :-)

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    1. Oh really? What was it lacking in for you? I haven't actually seen anyone else's opinions on it yet so I'm intrigued! Haha omg it totally stays with you doesn't it? I'm a bit biased because I love Jonah Hill in everything but I really enjoyed this - I hope it does well :) xx

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