“WAR MACHINE” is the new Netflix Original Film directed by David Michôd starring; Brad Pitt, Anthony Michael Hall, Topher Grace and Alan Ruck. With some smaller performances from; Meg Tilly, Ben Kingsley, Tilda Swinton and Scoot McNairy.
This story follows General McMahon. A guy whose life is virtually the embodiment of all the overblown stereotypes a person in his position often generates. He has been brought in to command the NATO forces in Afghanistan and he exudes pure confidence in feeling able to succeed where his predecessor failed. With his goal being simple, that of ‘winning the war’. But is isn’t long before General McMahon learns there is much more to fighting a war, than simply putting soldiers on the ground.
This is definitely a script with an absurdist point-of-view. It was a story-line woven around the subject of war, and all the government policies, societal obstacles, politics, and cultural circumstances that come along with it. But the scripts perspective was of the rational that these characters would be near irrational, or exaggerated, as were the scenarios and situations it portrayed. Not mocking the themes of the story by any means. But telling itself, and to some extent exposing certain methods of operation and the politics and policies of war, through satire as opposed to a more common, serious approach.
Overall, I will say I found some enjoyment in this movie. It was unique, not overbearing, filled with solid performances and covered the subject matter in a very non-traditional way. So, for those aspects this was an entertaining movie and another quality title from the growing Netflix Original Film vault. That isn’t to say this film is fantastic because I did have some issues with it.
First, let’s dive into some positives. Now I didn’t look too much into this movie before watching so Brad Pitt’s performance was iffy to me early on as I was unsure to the reasoning behind his persona. He was comical, felt overly unrealistic at times, but at the same time no so unrealistic in certain aspects. His gestures and mannerisms were quirky, but they did create some mild amusement.
But as the film progressed and we get to learn more about his character, his history in the service, and a little more about his personality, his character did grow on me. He delivered his lines well and created an odd but connectable personality, to where you may not align your thoughts with his, but you can certainly understand his point-of-view. Now this wasn’t one of Pitt’s best performances, but it was one of his better ones in recent years. I feel he is a much better character actor, and really thrives when he dives into a more eccentric and ungrounded characters, and that was certainly the case with this role.
The rest of the performances were all very good as well. Anthony Michael Hall comes in with an emotionally charged delivery and truly feels like the second in command, and a man that would die for his leader. Alan Ruck has some lasting scenes with Pitt as they both posture from different sides of the same team. But none of the characters really dominated the story with their roles as most were given littered screen time around Pitts dialogue. However, they do make the most out the minutes.
They all feel right for the parts they are playing and with splashes of smaller characters played by; Swinton, Grace, Kingsley, Tilly, McNairy and Poulter, the routine injection of familiar faces does help maintain your attention and intrigue as you watch. In my opinion though, Lakeith Stanfield comes in with the best performance other than Pitt’s. He was subtle, and deep in the cast roster but he had some impactful scenes and pops up routinely in this story to dose the exaggerated tone with a more dramatic punch. Something that was effective in bringing things back down to a more realistic sense.
The story is one that can build interest. It does cover some familiar arcs, however with a much different approach and mindset. The dry humor and comical moments do feel natural and they fit into the flow of the dialogue well. Yet most of the amusement comes from the short responses and mannerisms from Pitt. And for a while it worked to maintain some mild hilarity in this story-line.
But this subtly sarcastic element did bring up some of the issues I had with this film. That mainly being in the lack of focus on the tone. More specifically the tonal shift in the back half of the film where it suddenly feels like a more traditional war drama. It didn’t completely hinder this movie by any means but it was a stark contrast in direction and honestly distracting for a handful of minutes after the shift.
For the first two-thirds of this movie this script takes a series topic and tells it in a somewhat lighthearted tone to a relatively enjoyable result. Then, suddenly the shift goes to a more intense one and it was like a light switch behind flipped. I gave it a chance to see what the message would possibly be, but I never really got one for the reasoning behind the sudden seriousness. Thus, in the end it simply comes off like the filmmakers changed their mind on what genre their film was going to be and it was an odd approach to me. Something else that hindered this one for me was the run-time. At two-hours it does drag in the second-act and it could easily have been snipped by twenty-minutes.
But “War Machine” does deliver some entertainment. It’s worth a shot on Netflix if you want to see something different and unique. Pitt’s performance, and this film overall will either grab you or it won’t. But you will know what this movie will give you for the most part after the first fifteen-minutes.