Time Out says
Brad Pitt plays the bumbling, egotistical Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan in this enjoyable wartime satire
Brad Pitt puts on his ‘confused but forthright guy’ face and hops on a plane bound for Kabul in this smart, informative, slightly-too-broad Netflix Original satire. He’s four-star US General Glen McMahon, a loosely fictionalised proxy for General Stanley McChrystal, whose surprising behaviour during his tenure as the Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan was the subject of a non-fiction book, ‘The Operators’.
McMahon’s antics include leading a troupe of clownish, ill-equipped and frequently sloshed hangers-on, lying to his superiors and to the Afghan president Hamid Karzai (Ben Kingsley, wonderfully sly), and openly bad-mouthing the Obama administration in the presence of a journalist. Some of this is intentional misdirection – McMahon is a man who knows how to get what he wants, by any means necessary – and some of it is macho misjudgement and/or outright stupidity.
If ‘War Machine’ never settles on a comfortable tone it’s largely down to Pitt, whose grimacing performance is just a nudge too extreme. But there’s so much here that works: the script is consistently surprising, weaving between sharp wit, goofy slapstick and statistical fact. As an indictment of modern warfare, it’s all too believable: these men have all the money, technology and gung-ho will in the world, but are consistently undermined by their own inflated egos.
And when the film finally gets serious – following a platoon of young Marines into enemy territory – it’s absolutely riveting, offering an angry rebuke to self-styled noble lions like McMahon who venerate the ordinary soldier then send him off to die. A messy, troubling and strangely enjoyable film.
Cast and crew