What 'War Dogs' Gets Right About The Millennial Mentality
Millennials have been called a lot of things: lazy, entitled, disruptive. Pick the negative adjective and someone, somewhere has probably used it to describe someone in their 20s or early 30s. As a millennial myself, I take strong offense to any negative connotation bestowed upon my generation, because in my eyes, millennials are strong-willed, adventurous, and yes, disruptive, but is that such a bad thing? We're not much for sticking to the status quo, and that's especially evident in Todd Phillips' new movie, War Dogs. The upcoming film depicts millennials as go-getters who aren't afraid to hustle and take risks, and at the film's New York press conference, Phillips and his War Dogs cast explained just how important showing that side of the generation was to them.
In the film, based on a true story, Jonah Hill and Miles Teller star as Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, respectively, two real-life wayward stoners who, in 2005, became international arms dealers. When asked about the duo at the press conference, Teller told reporters, "They didn't have as much to lose. [Youth] gave them bravado and a little bit of ignorance that was needed to keep pushing them along this path."
Phillips, best known for directing The Hangover trilogy, managed to turn Diveroli and Packouz's incredible — and scary — story into a fun, surreal film, one that shows that because the duo had nothing to lose, they simply went for it. War Dogs follows two nobodies who, through sheer will and a "why the hell not" state of mind, managed to secure a $300 million Pentagon contract for totally legal, albeit highly controversial, work, and although their actions, of course, were questionable, their drive is inspiring. I, for one, left the movie wanting to do something big.
At the press conference, Guy Lawson, who wrote the article War Dogs is based off of, revealed that the piece came about when his Rolling Stone editors wanted him to "find stories about young people doing f*cked up things. And this was it." The story he chose, "The Stoner Arms Dealers," fit the bill, as it's about young, bold people who didn't respect boundaries and managed to disrupt the status quo. And while like most films, there were elements of the true tale that were altered and manipulated to fit a narrative, the message of the story remains: if you want something, go get it, no matter how crazy it might seem (but perhaps don't follow Diveroli and Packouz's controversial example to a T).
At the press conference, Hill stated that he tends to lean toward characters who all seem to have a common thread: going for it, whatever "it" may be. Explained the actor,
"[With] Moneyball or Wolf of Wall Street or this movie, they all kind of feature people finding an angle and something new... they're finding a new way into something like a loophole or some sort of unseen avenue to get into something or make something important."
Essentially, Diveroli and Packouz did find a new way into something: the international arms trade. They learned to spot the loopholes in the government's policy and they manipulated those loopholes to their benefit, to climb the ladder quickly and gain success from it. As shown in War Dogs, these men took the craziest "what if" and made it a reality. Whether morally right or not, they created an opportunity for themselves where there was none, and benefited hugely. But make no mistake, while their attitudes are at times inspiring, the duo didn't forge ahead without controversy and in the end, they crossed a major line from motivated to greedy. They went from legal to illegal, ending up in prison. So while War Dogs makes it clear that going for one's goals is important, it's also a cautionary tale about getting arrogant in your actions and ignoring the law. So remember that while the men's story is unbelievable and their tenacity is sometimes admirable, their actual story is not one to emulate.
Images: Warner Bros. Pictures