There's a scene in this movie that is its heart. And to obtain the right understanding of War, Inc., the workings of this heart must be understood. If you miss it, the greatness of this film will be lost in the chaos of its political anger and massive attack on American culture in the age of Bush. What happens is this: An evil head of a privatized intelligence agency, Walken (Ben Kingsley), is having a fight with one of his agents, Brand Hauser (John Cusack), a hit man who wants to quit his job and become a nice person. The fight happens in the back of a garbage truck. The truck is in the middle of an ersatz Roman square. This is the end of Western civilization. Hauser manages to leap out of the garbage truck and switch on the compactor. As the evil Walken is being crushed—Walken being the symbol of the neocon program in its most extreme state—he screams: "Okay, okay, I get it. I get it. Stop this thing!"
Yes, he gets it. We all get it. The movie is about the morally empty Iraq war, the big holes in the neocon ideology, and the even bigger holes in neoliberal policies. New York Times critic Stephen Holden gets it: "Playing a classic lone gunman... [Mr. Cusack's] destination is the Emerald City (read the Green Zone) in the fictional Turaqistan (read Iraq), a country occupied by Tamerlane (read Halliburton), a corporation run by an unnamed former vice president of the United States (Dan Aykroyd, doing a dead-on parody of Dick Cheney)." And there is much, much more to get: The lefty journalist played by Marisa Tomei, Natalie Hegalhuzen, is Naomi Wolf, and the freedom expo managed by Marsha Dillon, Joan Cusack, is a reflection of the one described in Wolf's 2003 article "Risky Business" (in The Nation): "It's 8:40 a.m. and the Sheraton Hotel ballroom thunders with the sound of plastic explosives pounding against metal. No, this is not the Sheraton in Baghdad, it's the one in Arlington, Virginia. And it's not a real terrorist attack, it's a hypothetical one."
And then there's the second world pop star played by Hilary Duff, Yonica Babyyeah. She, of course, represents the dead-end values of Britney Spears and 50 Cent. Yes, we get it! But critics who have dismissed this film, like Holden, missed this crucial part of its heart: We must not "stop this thing." The movie has to continue, it has to keep stating and crushing the obvious. Why? Because there is no polite or nice or calm or neat or kind or sane or rational way to process the situation in Iraq. War, Inc. might very well be the film that the future uses to understand our bleak moment of shock and awe.