The Pentagon Wars

Watch The Pentagon Wars

"They aimed to build the ultimate fighting machine... they missed."
  • R
  • 1998
  • 1 hr 44 min
  • 7.2  (4,892)

The Pentagon Wars is a satirical comedy film released in 1998, directed by Richard Benjamin and based on a book by James Burton. Starring Kelsey Grammer, Cary Elwes, and Viola Davis, the movie tells the absurd story of the development and testing of the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle, a military vehicle designed to transport soldiers and provide them with protection in combat.

The film opens in the early 1980s, when Lieutenant Colonel James Burton (Kelsey Grammer) is assigned to oversee the testing of the Bradley vehicle. Burton soon discovers that the vehicle is riddled with design flaws, and that the Army is more interested in pushing the project through than in fixing the problems. Despite the warnings of his subordinates, Burton tries to bring attention to the vehicle's defects, but he faces resistance from superiors who are more concerned with meeting deadlines and securing funding than with ensuring the vehicle's safety.

As Burton delves deeper into the project, he uncovers more and more absurdities. One of the most damning is the fact that the Bradley is equipped with a missile launcher that is not only unsuitable for its intended purpose but actually endangers the lives of soldiers who operate it. Yet the Army insists on keeping the launcher, because removing it would mean admitting that they made a mistake.

Meanwhile, Burton's boss, General Partridge (John C. McGinley), is more interested in playing golf than in addressing the Bradley's problems, and he has a habit of promoting officers who agree with him while punishing those who question his decisions. When Burton speaks out against the Bradley at a press conference, Partridge has him reassigned to a desk job in the Pentagon, where he is put in charge of designing a new coffee cup for the Army.

Despite the setbacks, Burton refuses to give up on his mission. He finds allies in a civilian contractor, Al (Cary Elwes), and a congresswoman, Davis (Viola Davis), who support his efforts to expose the Bradley's flaws. Together, they launch a campaign to investigate the vehicle, which leads to a damning report by the Government Accountability Office. In the end, the Army is forced to make significant changes to the Bradley, and Burton is vindicated.

The Pentagon Wars is a biting critique of the military industrial complex and the bureaucracy that often gets in the way of progress. It exposes the absurdities of a system that values form over function and that views soldiers as expendable resources rather than as human beings. The film is made more poignant by the fact that it is based on a true story; while the names and details have been changed, the Bradley project was a real debacle that cost billions of dollars and countless lives.

The film is anchored by strong performances from its three leads. Kelsey Grammer shines as the frustrated and disillusioned Burton, who is simultaneously outraged and amused by the absurdities he encounters. Cary Elwes brings a touch of manic energy to the role of Al, a contractor who is both cynical and idealistic. And Viola Davis, in one of her earliest film roles, delivers a powerful performance as Davis, a congresswoman who is determined to hold the military accountable for its mistakes.

The film's humor is dark and biting, and there are moments of genuine outrage and sadness. The scenes in which soldiers are put at risk by the Bradley's design flaws are particularly harrowing, and the film does not shy away from the human cost of bureaucratic ineptitude. Yet the film never loses its sense of humor, and it is able to find comedy in even the bleakest situations.

Overall, The Pentagon Wars is a clever and entertaining film that manages to be both funny and serious. It exposes the flaws in our military-industrial complex while celebrating the courage of those who are willing to speak up against them. With strong performances, sharp writing, and a compelling story, it is a must-watch for anyone interested in politics, the military, or satire.

The Pentagon Wars is a 1998 comedy with a runtime of 1 hour and 44 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.2.

The Pentagon Wars
Where to Watch The Pentagon Wars
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 44 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.2  (4,892)