By David Swanson
I went to the trouble to get a copy of John Cusack’s film “War, Inc.” and I would have had more fun watching Congress declare national swamp moss appreciation week on C-Span.
I’m thrilled that the film’s release has put Cusack on TV talking against illegal wars and mercenary armies. He speaks very well off script. I’m thrilled that hunger for anti-war films gave “War, Inc” an early burst of interest and public pressure for a wider release. I’m entirely convinced that we will not end the current wars without permeating every medium in our culture with the demand for peace. But I’m not at all surprised that interest in “War, Inc.” is fizzling out faster than Iraqis’ gratitude for their “liberation.”
This film should never have been marketed to peace activists. It should be marketed to fans of Arnold Schwarzenegger. It is not a movie about politics or peace or the reality of war. It is primarily about how cool and fun and laughable it is to kill lots of cartoonish villains using a variety of improvised weapons, never receiving a scratch in return, getting the girl, and exploring the skin-deep depth of humanity in an assassin with almost superhuman powers.
Cusack plays a trained killer who seduces a Nation Magazine reporter while being unsuccessfully seduced by a young pop singer who later turns out to be his long-lost daughter. (She had been kidnapped when his wife was murdered, and that’s where the humanity comes in – he kind of wishes his wife hadn’t been murdered.)
The progressive reporter turns out to be a hollower shell of a character than the killer mercenary, and she ends up grabbing a gun and joining him in battle with evildoers. In fact, they very quickly and without any sort of credibility become a family with a grown daughter, and within 2 minutes of discovering that she is Cusack’s daughter, the young woman too has picked up a gun and joined her long-lost dad and brand new step-Mom in blasting the world with good old American bullets.
The killing in this movie is very cool and bloodless and often aimed for laughs. The victims are unknown or comically foreign with bad taste in American pop cultural imitation. The heroes are rushed through such over-the-top goofy nonsense that’s there’s no chance of anyone actually caring about them. Cusack’s sister has a large role as his ally in his “cover” position as a manager in a Halliburton/Blackwater mercenary/PR company, and she is at least as annoying as you’d imagine if you’ve seen some of her other films, but without being funny in any way.
This typical Hollywood bullshit action flick is framed within serious criticism of wars for profit, criticism presented as exaggerated futuristic fantasy. For example, reporters are not just embedded with military units. They are injected with drugs, presented with goggles, strapped into moving seats, and shown films of battles in a theater that shakes to make the scenes more realistic. I laughed at some of these bits. But the film would then always push things too far in some ham-handed way. In this case, one of the reporters screams that she’s been hit and falls out of the chair she was supposedly strapped into. There’s a fine line between stupidity and humor, and maybe my problem is that I can’t laugh about this topic. But, for whatever reason, I found this so-called cult classic that talented authors like Jeremy Scahill have promoted so hard to be truly dumb and pointless.