Brad Pitt stars in the fact-based War Machine, a film that takes a satirical look at war and politics. Netflix is the Godzilla of content, trampling across the streaming world with movie or series after movie or series. War Machine represents a new level Netflix is trying to achieve. This level includes top-notch productions with the best in the business. War Machine includes a ton of Hollywood elites. But having all the best pieces still doesn’t always produce a winning combination.
War Machine tells the story of U.S. Army General Glen McMahon played by Brad Pitt. The General is a legend. Loved by everyone. Brave. Resolute. Unflinching. But in the state of modern war, the General finds himself on a mission as a diplomat which, for a man like McMahon, seems like an impossible task. McMahon assembles a team to help him on the mission which is nothing short of ending the war in Afghanistan.
On paper, War Machine looks like a movie destined to make a big impact. It’s based on a best-selling, non-fiction book The Operators by Michael Hastings. It features Pitt as the lead, Anthony Michael Hall, Topher Grace, Tilda Swinton, and Ben Kingsly along for the ride too. Writer/Director David Michôd already has critically acclaimed features Animal Kingdom and The Rover under his belt. The story is a look into the often insane geopolitical agendas that drives the U.S. Military. What could go wrong?
For starters, War Machine is somewhat dull. For a film working on a $60 million dollar budget, it feels oddly flat and un-cinematic. There are a lot of closeups, shots of people sitting and talking, and stuff on TVs. Sweeping shots or even wide-angle establishing shots are few and far between.
Performances are consistent, if uninspired. Brad Pitt does some excellent work on a physical level, maintaining the General’s claw-like hand. Otherwise, Pitt’s portrayal of McMahon, based on real-life General Stanley McChrystal, is little more than an alternate version of Aldo Raine from Inglorious Basterds.
It wants to be a cross between Dr. Strangelove and Wag the Dog.
The message and point of War Machine will connect with most everyone on the left side of American politics. But most all the salvos fired at how the U.S. handles Afghanistan miss. War Machine fails to score headshots from its satirical assaults.
War Machine is an example of great intentions gone wrong. Everything about the film should work, but it just doesn’t. It’s a shame too since this type of film is necessary. War Machine wants to expose a few the ridiculous inner workings of military and politics. It wants a cross between Dr. Strangelove and Wag the Dog. But the film fails for two hours straight.
This review is a harsh assessment of a film with incredible potential. But it’s also harsh because it’s such a flawed first attempt from Netflix to elevate their original cinematic content. At best, War Machine is mediocre. For the price and talent involved, achieving a stalemate is a result too similar to the wars the film is trying to dissect.