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The story itself--the crazy process whereby a simple request for an improved armored personnel carrier resulted in the ridiculous initial design for the Bradley transport--is one that should be well-known. It is the ultimate cautionary tale about a bureaucracy gone out of control. What is amazing is the light-handed skill with which the story is told--it is funny when it should be, yet sucks you in sufficiently to get you really mad at what is going on. And the casting is superb.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film, especially Kelsey Grammar as the unflappable general - always ready with a quick answer and so sincere you want to believe him, despite the utter absurdity of what he is saying. I am not sure whether to treat this movie as comedy or horror - it would be quite amusing as fiction , but I find it rather terrifying to think that it is based on a true story. Is this really how our tax dollars are wasted? As a former member of the military I find it all too easy to believe.
This movie could have been good to watch on a big screen. The humor is good, the dialogues are fine and the actors never overact. General Partridge (Kelsey Grammer) forgets that the business of war begins with providing good material to the troops. Colonel James Burton (Cary Elwes) knows this and he delivers a speech to the test-company that must make a demonstration of the Bradley troop transporter. The senatorial commission cannot understand that the development costs of the vehicle lasted for 17 years and costed 14 billion dollars. The hearings and questions of that commission provides one of the most humoristic scenes of the movie and are unsurpassed by other political movies.
i first saw this movie well before coming into the military, and while i found it very entertaining, didn't fully appreciate it. having now been 3 years in, i can very much appreciate the humor of this fantastic satire. granted, there is a fair amount of hyperbole, and no, not everyone in the military is so very inept... but simply put, a few years working with military intellegence elevates my view of this film quite a bit.
I find it interesting that this movie is classified as a comedy, granted some of the procedures that Col. Burton is forced to go through are comical. What i find disturbing is this is based on the real true to life development of the bradley fighting vehicle. Not only was it produced at great cost (over 13 billion taxpayer dollars) but after spending that much money it was an unsafe deathtrap for anyone riding in it, unfortunately it was a troop carrier. thankfully we did not have any conflicts requiring the use of the vehicle until most of the defects were fixed. also disturbing is the fact that every officer involved in the development of the bradley was promoted and went on to lucrative defense contracting positions while Col. Burton was forced to leave the Air Force.
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, it's quite clever and amusing and keeps a good pace. The disturbing thing is there's usually not some crusader to put the brakes on something like this. The movie really fails to deal with the motivations of the people who so unethically push the project through; they must have some rational for their actions, which could result in untold deaths, but we never hear an explanation. So it's not an in depth analysis, and I'd love to see a documentary on the same subject, but it's quite enjoyable.
The ending scenes are Bill Murray hokey, but the movie is surprisingly compelling. I was vaguely familiar with the facts behind the story, but I intend to read Mr. Burton's book now. The part of Burton's assistant seemed to me to be well played. Grammer's portrayal fit my perception of a Pentagon general, but his aides come out as just caricatures.
This is an educational film. Clearly i'm not up to date on civic problems. Clearly we've still got big ones. Meanwhile, Richard Benjamin's concise little drama mit schlag shows range of Kelsey Grammer, who is as terrifying a monster here in General's role as you will ever wish to see. Cary Elwes back on the side of truth and justice, for which i'm glad, as he has hero quality. And the women in this film keep it down to earth. There is great music behind titles and credits. Just go with this one. It is pretty amazing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As an adaptation from Lt. Col. James G. Burton's 1993 book of the same
name, 'The Pentaton Wars' dramatises the ludicrous time/money wasting
going on in the many Pentagon weapons programmes during the cold war.
The film focuses on the development of the M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Burton (an U.S. Air Force Lt. Col played by Cary Elwes) is appointed, by Congress, to test and evaluate the vehicle that has been under development by the U.S. Army for 17 years at a cost of $14 billion. The press has caught onto the astonishing waste and incompetence, and pressure is applied to prove that the whole thing isn't just throwing away vast quantities of money. Politicians, sensitive to the press coverage, begin to insist that some of these weapons programmes actually go into production, rather than just sitting around on the drawing board and testing grounds.
The General in charge of the programme (played by Kelsey Grammar) is superficially friendly and cooperative to Burton, but his main aim is to stall and divert him into doing nothing to interfere with the gravy train -- just as so many previous appointees have avoided doing in the past, to the benefit of their careers. No-one wants to sabotage a hugely lucrative programme and find themselves ostracised.
Burton, though, has other ideas. After observing a deeply flawed test of the vehicle he begins to dig deeper. He looks into the history of the programme and finds designers being constantly asked to redesign it to fit in with ever shifting fads. The vehicle started out as a troop carrier, until one General realised he could chop a big chunk out of his budget by merging his "scout" project with it -- meaning it now had to have guns, a turret, detection equipment and be twice as fast (meaning it carries half as many people with less armour to protect them)... and so on. At one point, another General even suggests making it amphibious. After the 17 years of this, the end result is a hideous mongrel that can't perform any role particularly well.
Burton's investigations into the testing methods of the programme are no more encouraging. The "successful" tests performed on the armour are supposed to have been done with Soviet weaponry, but were actually done with Romanian RPGs that can't even blast through a metal door ("Romania is part of the Soviet-block" is the excuse). Other tests of its resistance to fire after being hit are done when the gunpowder in the carried ammo is replaced by sand, and the fuel tank is either empty or full of water. A British Army report into the type of aluminium used for the vehicle (when hit by a shell it burns and releases a toxic gas) is buried. Burton's attempts to run his own tests are constantly undermined and sabotaged. In one of the film's finest moments, Burton's idea to use sheep to test what would happen to a crew when hit by an RPG is blocked by the General setting up an ENTIRE NEW DEPARTMENT called "Ruminant procurement", thereby ensuring it will take 8 months for Burton's spec to be examined (type of sheep, length of coat, gender etc etc) and a further 8 months to actually procure them. Meanwhile, the under-pressure General is forcing the vehicle into production despite its manifest failings.
The whole thing is played for laughs... there was no other way to treat it really. I haven't read the original book (but I will now), so I can't say how faithful it is, but it's a very smart and funny film. Anyone who has worked in a large organisation will be familiar with the goings-on... but only colossally budgeted ones like the military can take it to such comedic extremes.
This movie gives the long history how a military troop carrier - the Brady - is turned into a monstrosity. I've worked for a government contractor; this is so close to how military contracts and the work it's scary! Not only does it portray the stress between the pentagon and congress as the troop carrier gets turns in to an amphibious, tank, antiaircraft, scoot (read slow moving target with troops in it). It some how makes it funny at he same time! Kelsey Grammer and Cary Elwes are both great comedic actors. Though Kelsey Grammer carries the movie. The only down side to the "Pentagon Wars" is it drags a little in the middle because just so much goes wrong with the Brady program.
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