I walked in to the cinema not really knowing what to expect from the film War Dogs. Starring Miles Teller and Jonah Hill as the leads, we are made known that this story is based on a true story with the major events occurring between 2005-2008. What I really enjoyed when it came to this film was the narration. The story is told through David Packouz (Miles Teller) a technique that is often used, but I feel was utilised quite well in this film.
David is working as a masseuse, living from pay cheque to pay cheque when one day he is reunited with his childhood friend Efraim Diveroli. From this point on the boys reignite their friendship, taking it to a whole new level when Efraim introduces David to a new business venture. They would supply the army with materials needed, things Efraim describes as “crumbs.” Quite intriguing, a story that hasn’t been conveyed through film, and relayed to us in quite a dynamic way. Through the story, the set-up, the visuals, even the sound. We are initially brought into the story at the end, in 2008, it then takes us back to 2005. Again, a technique we often see in cinema and in the case of this film, was accomplished quite brilliantly.
The sound and camera angles were so crisp. It really was interesting to watch, not just the story itself, but the way it was displayed to us. One particular scene that stands out is the re-packing scene. Where the pallet is opened, tin boxes removed, items weighed and re-packaged. The sounds were a rhythm that synced perfectly with the changes in angles and visuals. The different landscapes too. Such contrast from the warm tones of the desert landscapes to the dark grey tones of the industrial setting. And then the neon fluro blaring lights of the fast paced busy landscape, it really was beautifully done.
The characters were well constructed, Jonah Hill as Efraim, equal parts funny and intriguing. The character (through the narration of David) came to life before our eyes. The narration worked so well in establishing each characters story and the progress throughout. Also the use of chapters was a good idea for audience members to take a moment and think about each chapter and upon reading the title of the next one, contemplate what could come next. Could the film work without them? Yes. But it works. One thing however, that did not, was timing. It was a long film, and towards the middle the momentum, somewhat dropped. There were parts that could definitely have been cut from the film. I still enjoyed the film, but I couldn’t help but think, perhaps there was a smarter way to get this information across. Much like the beginning and end of the film. I know the conventions of storytelling, but I feel a lot of the content in the middle could have been reduced, without impacting the potential of the film.
The film, directed by Todd Phillips (of The Hangover series fame who co-wrote War Dogs with Stephen Chin) also features a face familiar to the The Hangover franchise, Bradley Cooper. Cooper stars as Henry Girard, a man who adds a whole new level of danger to the situation, a man who David and Efraim make a deal with. The costuming really helped transform some of these characters. Bradley Cooper in 1970’s clear aviator glasses (that magnify his eyes), with slicked back dark hair, taking pauses and just being all round eerie, really accomplished the job in creeping people out. You’ve got to hand it to the costume and make-up/hair department. All the characters had distinct traits and features, that helped create a feel. Like Efraim, who has a love of expensive things, all for show, much like his persona.
Miles Teller does a great job in taking this character from level one to level ten. David also has a family to think about, his expectant girlfriend Iz played by Ana de Armas. Armas did a great job in portraying the character, especially the scene where she, Iz, is laying it all on the table with David. One problem I did have was earlier on, her character’s acceptance when it came to what her partner does for work. From what we are led to believe her character has strong morals and yes, they initially fight about it, but then I feel like she’s conceded in the next scene and accepted it. Yes, this is for the good of the films progression, I just feel it did a disservice to her character, purely a script issue. Small issues also included continuity and inconsistencies. Not major issues, but I noticed, and usually that doesn’t normally happen on the first view.
I enjoyed this film. The cameos, the story, the humour and overall the journey. It might sound sappy, but it was very well done. That being the growth when it came to all the characters. Some for the better, others for the worse. I like when a film includes the audience, not in the interactive sense, but in the ‘this is what I think will happen next’ way. I’d definitely watch it again, and when I am asked, “what’s a good movie to watch this week?” War Dogs will feature.