Since about two hours after Fahrenheit 9/11 was released, there's been a deluge of agit-prop documentaries about what a shitty place George W. Bush & Co. have made the world. For all their noble intentions, these movies are usually terrible, and War, Inc. is, basically, another one to add to the list—even though it's a comedy and even though it takes place in the make-believe land of Turaquistan.
But Turaquistan is Iraq, and the occupying force—the Tamerlane Corporation, which is waging "the first war ever to be 100 percent outsourced to private enterprise"—is America, and John Cusack is us: As Brand Hauser, he's a Tamerlane operative who's in bed with the military industrial complex (even though deep down, he feels really bad about it). "Look," he says to a liberal reporter. "We've already kicked the shit outta this place. What're we supposed to do? Turn our backs on all the entrepreneurial possibilities?"
That reporter is Natalie Hegalhuzen (Marisa Tomei), and she's the kind of good-hearted spirit who writes about "corporate profit and international branding" (for The Nation, natch). Hauser takes Natalie on a ramshackle tour of the horrors of Turaquistan, which include tanks festooned with billboards for Popeyes and the sexed-up "Britney Spears of Central Asia," Yonica Babyyeah (Hilary Duff, a long way from the Disney Channel), whose lip-synched act includes her fellating the nozzle of a gas pump. Meanwhile, mainstream journalists investigate the war by going on Star Tours-style battlefield simulator rides, and there's a chorus line of women with prosthetic legs, since they've lost their real ones to landmines. "Just another breathtaking example of how American know-how alleviates the suffering it creates!" Hauser brags.
As a series of gags—some great, most not—War, Inc. is pretty impressive, if only because its happily preachy sentiments are admirable in spirit, if not execution. As an actual film, though, it's just sloppy, twice as long as it needs to be, and disappointingly sentimental in its third act. With a severe edit, War, Inc. could've been pretty great; as is, it feels as messy, rushed, and unrewarding as, say, an invasion of Turaquistan.