“War Dogs”: As exciting as dining hall food

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“War Dogs”: As exciting as dining hall food

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The dramatic yet comedic movie “War Dogs,” released in the United States on Aug. 19, made over $14 million opening weekend. “War Dogs” is based upon the true story of David Packouz, a massage therapist in his early 20s, and his childhood friend Efraim Diveroli.  The duo begins working together in Miami as arms dealers, supplying the U.S. and Afghan Military during the Iraq War. After making it big, they run into some legal issues that cause their relationship and business to fall apart.

 
David Packouz is played by Miles Teller, who starred in the Divergent series. He is accompanied by Efraim Diveroli, played by Oscar-nominated actor Jonah Hill, who starred in “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013) and “21 Jump Street” (2012). “War Dogs” features another Oscar Nominated actor, Bradley Cooper, known for his roles in “American Sniper” (2014) and “The Hangover” trilogy, playing a shady arms dealer, Henry Girard, who works with Packouz and Diveroli.

 
The film begins with Packouz being dragged out of a car trunk by Albanian thugs. They are shouting in Albanian, but Packouz has no idea what they are saying. A mysterious man points a Jericho 941 pistol at Packouz’s face and asks, “Do you understand now?” The film pauses and Teller begins narrating about his character’s identity before the film jumps back in time to the beginning of the story.

 
Todd Phillips, director of “War Dogs,” has used this technique — beginning the story in the middle of an event and then flashing to the beginning of the story — in other films that he has directed, including “The Hangover.” The technique is called ‘in media res.’ Another technique that Phillips uses in many of the movies he has directed is pausing the film for first-person narration. This can be seen in his previous film, “Starsky & Hutch” (2004).

 
Some interesting cinematic decisions were made in this film regarding action scenes and transitions. During all of the action scenes, the camera closes in on the subject and becomes very shaky. This creates a lot of tension during the exciting scenes. The small-frame shots during action scenes are countered by wide shot landscapes during transitions, which show beautiful glimpses of the filming locations.

 
“War Dogs” was filmed in four countries spanning the globe. The primary country used for filming was the United States. Packouz and Diveroli’s company, AEY, had their company building in Miami, Florida, where there was on-site filming. Las Vegas, Nevada, and a coffee shop in California were also used.

 
Another on-site filming location was in Jordan, when Packouz and Diveroli fly there to check on a shipment of weapons. The duo also went to Albania in the story, but that portion of the film was filmed in Bucharest, Romania. The fourth country used for filming was Morocco, where the Iraqi scenes were filmed.

 
“War Dogs” was Todd Phillip’s first dramatic film. Most of the films he has directed in the past were comedies. Phillips’ comedic elements can be found throughout “War Dogs,” especially through his many homages to well-known films like “Scarface.” There are some references that are easy to notice or are pointed out by characters in the film, such as the film’s poster or a golden grenade that Diveroli presents to Packouz with the inscription “The World is Yours,” alluding to how the duo had a time of glory where they could have anything in the world, just like Tony Montana. Then there are some references that are hidden in the film, such as a “Scarface” poster in the backdrop of Diveroli’s office.

 
As Phillip’s first dramatic movie, many critics disapproved of how he set up the story and executed the film. Their negative critiques reflect the poor profits made at the box offices. “War Dogs” had a budget of $40 million during production and only generated $42 million in profits. When compared to the box office gross of “The Hangover” movies, which ranged from $362 to $586 million, he came up short.

 
The film did succeed in having a wonderful soundtrack. The film was full of famous musicians, ranging from Creedence Clearwater Revival with “Fortunate Son,” to The Beastie Boys with “So What’cha Want.”

 

 

An iconic scene in “War Dogs” takes place when Diveroli fires an AK-47 in slow motion while “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd plays in the background.

 
“War Dogs” is an interesting film that is worth a watch, but I wouldn’t consider it a significant film of this time. It keeps the viewer’s attention and fills the need for a silly yet dramatic movie, but it doesn’t have enough substance to be watched over and over again. It’s similar to dining hall food: You don’t mind eating it, but, if there are other options, you would choose to eat something else.

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