War Machine movie cast: Brad Pitt, Anthony Hayes, John Magaro
War Machine movie director: David Michôd
War Machine Movie ratings: 3 stars
Brad Pitt’s War Machine, a new Netflix original, is a very unusual Hollywood movie based on modern American war. The film is an anti-war satire inspired by the book ‘The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan’, wrote by journalist Michael Hastings. The book itself was a follow-up of the damaging profile that Hastings wrote on General McChrystal for the Rolling Stone magazine.
Brad plays a rockstar military general, Glen McMahon, whose legend in the US army is unbeaten. He is ordered by the Obama administration to put an end to the ongoing US-led war on terror in Afghanistan. A decorated war general comes to believe that only he can fix the biggest American diplomatic screw up of all time and put the war-torn country on the path of growth and prosperity. But his belief does not pan out well for him and his illustrious career. For many reasons, Glen’s character feels like it represents everything that is truly American. He is a self-assured hubris. Like the American government, he also believes that he can install a thriving democracy and win over people’s trust at the gunpoint in just about any country.
For those who have not read Hastings’ profile or book on McChrystal, Glen, in the beginning, feels like he is the right man for the job. You will come to believe whatever he is doing is right and it is the bureaucracy in Washington that is stopping him from ending this war. Director David Michôd keeps you this bubble for the most part of the film. We only realise that Glen does not appreciate the reality or the consequences of his bad judgments as he is blinded by his own personal mission and pride.
In one scene, when Glen is unsure about the way forward and his plans for Afghanistan, General Greg Pulver, played by Anthony Michael Hall, reminds him who he truly is. “You’re the killing machine. You’re the terrorist hunter. You’re the Big Glen. The Glenimal,” Greg tells Glen only to draw him out of his pensive mood and make him more indifferent to the ground reality.
For Glen, it was never about rebuilding Afghanistan into a “free and prosperous country.” He saw Afghanistan as his personal achievement and wanted to go down as the legend who cracked the “uncrackable nut.”
Actor Tilda Swinton makes a brief appearance in the film as a German politician and tries to drill the reality into Glen’s head in vain. But, that is when the audience would realise that Glen may mean well but the war he is fighting is more complex than he thinks it is. His management skills were way too insufficient to win this war.
I used to wonder what did director David mean when he said “traditional Hollywood studios aren’t taking risks” with movies like War Machine anymore? It has Brad Pitt, a catchy title, and follows the battlefield exploits of a top general in Afghanistan, a war-torn country that continues to provide the Hollywood filmmakers with unlimited material for gripping movies on modern American war. It has all the merits to be made into a big motion picture and be a potential blockbuster.
But, unlike films like Green Zone, The Hurt Locker, or Black Hawk Down, the action in this film unfolds mostly in the conversation between its main characters. It gives a sneak peek into the superior minds of those who are under the impression that they are the solution for all the human sufferings in the world.
Without a doubt, Brad dominates the film with his performance. And other cast members have played their part well. But, one can actually count with his fingers the number of satirical moments in the film that hit home. Nonetheless, it is an interesting war movie and serves as a commentary on the leaders who advocate wars in the disguise of spreading democracy.