Monday, June 5, 2017

Movie Review: "War Machine" (2017)

Director: David Michôd
Year: 2017
Rating: TV-MA
Running Time: 2 hours, 2 minutes

In 2009, four-star Gen. Glen McMahon is assigned to lead the war effort in Afghanistan, an unwinable war he is determined to win.

"War Machine" is written and directed by David Michôd, who is known for films like "Animal Kingdom" and "The Rover." It is a fictional story based on the non-fiction book "The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan" by Michael Hastings. It stars Brad Pitt as four-star General Glen McMahon, who takes over as head of the war effort in Afghanistan in 2009. He is an old school soldier and a leader with a "war must be won" mentality while in command of a war that cannot be won. Also in the film are John Magaro, Anthony Hayes, Anthony Michael Hall, RJ Cyler, and Topher Grace, who make up McMahon's closest confidants and inner circle. Other notable actors rounding out the cast are Ben Kingsley, Will Poulter, Lakeith Stanfield, Meg Tilly, Alan Ruck, Griffin Dunne, and Scoot McNairy.

This movie offers a somewhat satirical look at the futility of the war on terror. It takes an absurdist approach to the subject, focusing on a General obsessed with winning a game that is unwinnable. He talks up the importance of counterinsurgency, which is more about public relations politics than military might. This leads to a confusing situation for the soldiers on the ground under McMahon's command, who must convince the locals they are the good guys while simultaneously occupying their country and killing their countrymen, their family members, and their friends. This film definitely has a political message and certainly delivers it, but unfortunately, not in the cleverest of manners.

The acting is fine in "War Machine" as Brad Pitt brings back his gruffly voiced military persona similar to what we saw in "Inglorious Basterds." The only difference between McMahon and Lt. Aldo Raine is that McMahon runs like an old man with his arms 10 feet away from his body in what we can only assume is an attempt to be humorous. Pitt's character feels more like a caricature of a four-star general than a someone based on a real person, and we're not really sure what the purpose of this is. We do see the rest of his crew as a rather gung-ho group, but we feel Michôd made these guys too aware that they were failing. "War Machine" would have worked better if they had been oblivious to the futility of their situation and trust the audience could interpret that message on their own without being spoon fed every single solitary bit of information. This winds up making the audience feel like passive students being lectured to rather active participants discovering information for ourselves about what should be a very tense and intense situation. The movie would have been more powerful if it had chosen whether it wanted to be a straight-up combat film or a satire, and commit to one instead of fluctuating between genres without much success.

My Rating: 5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 33%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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