Four characters seeking personal gain are nearly sidetracked by altruistic impulses in this emotionally and politically responsible movie set in Iraq during the immediate aftermath of the gulf war—a damning yet idealistic satire about the motives behind U.S. foreign policy. The visuals are wild, the sound track has the audacity to underscore the subtext instead of just echoing the obvious, the comedy is irreverent and occasionally slapstick, and the metaphorical details are consistently strong. The movie even examines the conventions of star-studded actioners without stripping the leads of the charisma and apparent immortality of full-blown action heroes. Writer-director David O. Russell (Spanking the Monkey, Flirting With Disaster) has achieved it all: he's made a movie (1999) that's about filmmaking—and things that really matter. With George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, and Spike Jonze.
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