Movie Review: War Machine
War Machine is a Netflix original movie that is centered around the conflict in Afghanistan. It is not a comedy, but not quote a drama, definitely not a documentary, but more in the real of satire. There in lies the problem with the movie. It does not quite know what it wants to be and makes for a very uneven experience.
In the movie Brad Pitt plays General Glen McMahon, who is sent to Afghanistan to wrap up the then eight year war in that country. This character is strongly based on Gen. Stanley McCrystal that was sent to do the same thing in real life. As always, Pitt shines and inhibits the character, from speech to mannerisms that makes the character complete. He comes into his new post with the intention of “winning the war” and is well-meaning, almost jingoistic, in his philosophy. McMahon is a soldier through and through and truly believes in what he is doing.
The conflict, and what makes this movie fascinating, is that almost no one that he answers to really wants the war won, just over. Which to a man like McMahon is just makes no sense. Why fight if you are not supposed to win. How do you protect the people you are there to protect if your hands are constantly tied. That phrase though becomes key as it pertains not just to the civilians, but to the young men that the general orders into the teeth of the monster. It is a reality of what war has become when it is fought in the political realm first and the on the battlefield second. welcome to modern war.
The supporting cast is phenomenal. Anthony Micheal Hall and Topher Grace are standouts. Tilda Swinton and Ben Kingsley, in the little screen time they do have make an impact. The most props though need to go to Meg Tilly who plays the general’s wife. She will be recognizable to anyone with a spouse or parent that is or has served in the military.
The Grain of Salt
One thing I want to make clear before offering my recommendation. Though it may seem like this would end up being a typical Hollywood anti-war movie, it really is not. It does not get “political” even when it plays politics. It would have been too easy for it to come out and condemn the war and the warriors, but at its heart it just asks the valid question of “why are we fighting here in the first place?”
Do I recommend it? Yes, it is well worth a watch on Netflix. There is humor and poignancy, a good mix for a somber subject. The scene where McMahon is explaining to his staff that, “you can’t help them and kill them at the same time” makes it worth watching alone.