Monday, 19 October 2015

Fillum Review - The Pentagon Wars (HBO 1998)

A bit of military historical hi-jinks here, courtesy of HBO.

                                                                       (DVD Cover)
"The Pentagon Wars" is a 1998 TV movie based on the memoirs of Colonel James Burton (USAF), specifically a period during the late 1970s/early 1980s in which he was assigned to oversee the acceptance into military service of the long delayed Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

Using mainly comedy actors, the film takes a comedic look at the corruption that is rife within US military arms development.

The story begins when Colonel Burton (Cary Elwes) is assigned by congress to evaluate the Bradleys development and to have the final decision about whether the project, which was well behind schedule and severely over budget, was fit to be placed into production and be accepted for Army service.
He becomes suspicious after the project manager, General Partridge (Kelsey Grammer) appears to be being deliberately obstructive to his enquiries about the vehicles performance under combat conditions.
After attending a demonstration at Aberdeen proving grounds, in which a live RPG round is shown to bounce harmlessly off the vehicles armour, his suspicion is further aroused when Partridges adjutants (John McGinley & Tom Wright) actively prevent him from examining the vehicle or seeing any of its performance data. He later leans from a concerned technical sergeant that many of the tests that the Bradley has "passed" were because the data was falsified due to using sub standard ammunition or substitutes.

Burton formally requests that all data and materials concerning the development of the vehicle are made available to him, and, when tons of paperwork is dumped on him, he gradually begins to realise that the Bradley "as is", is in fact a piece of junk, and that the project has continually been mismanaged by successive overseers ever since its inception in the late 1950s, due to the designer being forced to incorporate numerous ridiculous features on to the vehicle by a succession of armchair generals.

He sums up the vehicle as thus:- "Its a personnel carrier that cant carry personnel, its a scout thats so big it cant hide and its an anti tank platform with no armour."

Most of the film is relayed through flashbacks, as General Partridge gives evidence at a congressional enquiry into the mismanagement of the project, and it soon becomes clear that Partridge and his cronies were more interested in securing lucrative private sector work and promotions over developing a vehicle that is combat ready and safe for use by troops.

The film ends by stating that the Bradley Fighting Vehicle was introduced into service in 1981, having undergone extensive modifications in order to correct the glaring errors in its design and construction, however, Colonel Burton was "Blackballed" by the military, who saw his whistle blowing as a threat to the arms development industry.

If youre interested in this sort of thing, this film is a good watch, and the "dry" content is helped along by the films use of comedy actors and numerous farcical scenes (which incidentally really happened) in which Burtons progress is impeded by the conspirators.

This film is available to buy on DVD, but is quite hard to find, however it is available to watch "by other means" on various video sites.

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