Wednesday, May 31, 2017

'War Machine' Is a Witty and Insightful Satirical War Film

War Machine is a Netflix original movie starring Brad Pitt, who plays a United States Four-star General tasked to end the war in Afghanistan.  Greg Pulver, Topher Grace, Anthony Hayes, Emory Cohen, RJ Cyler, Daniel Betts, John Magaro, and Aymen Hamdouchi play the loyal members of his staff.  Ben Kingsley, Tilda Swinton, Will Poulter, and Russell Crowe are also in this movie with minor roles.

As a satirical war film, it shows through a humorous tone the absurdity, complexity, and futility of fighting insurgencies at modern times; the hindrances that soldiers face in conducting their jobs due to the BS and lack of foresight from politicians (particularly under the Obama administration); and how a commander, though his heart is in the right place, may tend to overestimate his self-importance, resulting to his downfall.
Also, since it’s a satire, I thought at first that everything about it is fictional.  Brad Pitt’s character, Gen. Glen McMahon, is portrayed as being an overachieving, definitive, badass commander to the point that he’s almost cartoonish.  Earlier in the movie, he’s described as someone who “ate one meal a day, slept four hours at night, ran seven miles every morning.”  But after researching this movie, I learned that McMahon is actually based on real-life General Stanley McChrystal, and the film’s fictional plot is based on the nonfiction book The Operators by Michael Hastings, which details Gen. McChrystal’s stint in Afghanistan and how he was eventually fired by President Obama.  But what really astonished me is that it has been reported that Gen. McChrystal indeed “ate one meal a day, slept four hours at night, ran seven miles every morning” in real life.    That’s crazily impressive.

Pitt’s performance here is a mixed bag for me.  Sometimes, especially at the earlier parts, I find him engaging and endearing.  Sometimes, I find him horribly goofy.  As for the rest of the cast, well, the spotlight isn’t set on them much; it was mostly on Pitt’s Gen. McMahon.  Thus, I didn’t quite notice and mind whether they have been solid or bad.  Tilda Swinton’s brief scene as a German politician is fun though.
Overall, War Machine is a witty, interesting movie.  It’s not entirely even and consistently charming, but its insights and humor are able to make up for most of its pitfalls.

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