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The Pentagon Wars

Where to Watch The Pentagon Wars


The Pentagon Wars is a 1998 HBO war-comedy film, directed by Richard Benjamin and featuring an ensemble cast led by Kelsey Grammer, Cary Elwes, and Viola Davis. This well-crafted satire provides a unique, entertaining, and occasionally shocking insight into the U.S. military's procurement process - essentially how American tax dollars are used to fund the hardwares of war.

Famed comedic actor Kelsey Grammer is delightfully cast against type as General Partridge, a scheming, self-serving Pentagon official whose main concern seems to be advancing his career rather than the safety and well-being of the troops he's supposed to be supporting. Grammer manages to inject the pompous and conniving General with precisely the right balance of humour and menace, cleverly ensuring that no matter how reprehensible Partridge’s actions, the audience is continually engaged - a testament to Grammer's skill as a performer.

Equally effective is Cary Elwes as Colonel James Burton, an Air Force officer thrust against his will into the politics and bureaucracy of the Pentagon. Burton is the film's moral compass and Elwes portrays him as an engaging mix of integrity, determination, and frustration - all of this comes from a naive belief that the system should work for the benefit of the servicemen and women on the front line, rather than the high-ranking officers back in Washington. The clash of these two personalities forms the crux of The Pentagon Wars, and the viewer is expertly drawn into rooting for the underdog – Burton - against the system that’s stacked heavily against him.

Dramatically enriching the plot is Viola Davis, in one of her earlier roles, as SFC Fanning. Davis's performance hints at the formidable talent she would later fully display, bringing a depth and realism to her supporting role amidst a diverse cast of characters. The ensemble is filled out by a host of accomplished character actors, including John C. McGinley, Tom Wright, and Clancy Brown, whose idiosyncratic performances add an additional layer of texture and richness to the proceedings.

The Pentagon Wars is not your typical war movie. There are no battle scenes, no heroic charges, no soul-gripping fear or heartbreaking losses. Instead, the battlefield is the Pentagon itself, and the weapons of choice are cutting edge hardware, millions of dollars, and the slings and arrows of brutal bureaucracy. The movie doesn't only set to entertain but also stimulate thought regarding the paradoxical world of military spending, where the usual rules of common sense and fiscal responsibility appear to have been thrown out the window.

At its heart, The Pentagon Wars is a story of corruption, bureaucracy, and the cost of integrity. Director Richard Benjamin, known for his comedies and dramadies, employs these elements to expose what he sees as the absurdities and injustices of the Pentagon's procurement process. With sharp dialogue and plenty of dark humour, the movie points out the sweep of ego, carelessness, and callousness that seems to infect this arm of military bureaucracy.

Set in the 1970s and 1980s, the movie exhibits an impressive period production design that convincingly recreates the look and feel of the military-industrial complex in that era. Burton's internal struggle sets the stage for intense drama, and the pacing of the film is tight, keeping the audience engaged throughout, balancing humour with an impactful message.

The Pentagon Wars is based on the real-life experiences of Colonel James Burton, as detailed in his book 'The Pentagon Wars: Reformers Challenge the Old Guard.' The film skillfully balances its social and political message with enough humour and pathos to prevent it from becoming too heavy-handed. However, it never allows the audience to forget the seriousness at the heart of its narrative, thus preserving its essential critical edge.

Although The Pentagon Wars deals with a particular historical period and a specific part of the American military complex, its themes - corruption, integrity, bureaucratic bungling - are universal and timeless. The movie not only reveals the frustrating and often shocking realities of the Pentagon's weapons procurement process but also serves as a more general commentary on the devastating effects of unchecked power and blind ambition. In this way, it remains as relevant today as it was when it first aired more than two decades ago.

For those who enjoy military films but are looking for something 'outside the box' or those who appreciate well-made satires, The Pentagon Wars is a must-see. It's smart, funny, thought-provoking, and ultimately, a biting critique of a system that too often seems to exalt power and greed at the expense of those it's supposed to serve.

The Pentagon Wars is a Comedy, Drama, War, TV Movie movie released in 1998. It has a runtime of 104 min.. Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 7.2..

How to Watch The Pentagon Wars

Where can I stream The Pentagon Wars movie online? The Pentagon Wars is available to watch and stream, buy on demand, download at Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube VOD. Some platforms allow you to rent The Pentagon Wars for a limited time or purchase the movie for downloading.

Richard Benjamin
Kelsey Grammer, Cary Elwes, John C. McGinley, Olympia Dukakis, Richard Benjamin
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