War Machine Review
Written and Directed by: David Michôd
Produced by: Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Ian Bryce
Starring: Brad Pitt, Emory Cohen, RJ Cyler, Topher Grace, Anthony Michael Hall, Anthony Hayes, John Magaro, Scoot McNairy, Will Poulter, Alan Ruck, Lakeith Stanfield, Josh Stewart, Meg Tilly, Tilda Swinton and Sir Ben Kingsley.
In a film for our times, writer-director David Michôd (Animal Kingdom) recreates a U.S. General’s roller-coaster rise and fall as part reality, part savage parody – raising the specter of just where the line between them lies today. His is an anti-establishment, pro-soldier exploration in the form of an absurdist war story of a born leader’s ultra-confident march right into the dark heart of folly. At the story’s core is Brad Pitt’s sly take on a successful, charismatic four-star general who leapt in like a rock star to command NATO forces in Afghanistan, only to be taken down by his own hubris and a journalist’s no-holds-barred expose. War Machine addresses the debt we owe to soldiers to question the purposes to which they are being directed.
War Machine is a funny film and I mean that in a few ways. the movie is entertaining but suffers a bit of an identity crisis. War Machine is at times a comedy, at times a serious drama, occasionally a war film, and at the very least it’s based on true events.
Brad Pitt really hones in with his character General McMahon. At first I couldn’t help but ponder how Brad Pitt was going to make this believable. I occasionally struggle when super famous actors try to take on a biographical role in that I have a hard time divorcing the actor from the character they’re portraying. They’re just too famous to be anyone but themselves let alone a living breathing actual other person. Pitt succeeds thanks to some fantastic writing to develop his character. There are so many quirks and traits that make McMahon unique in and of himself and Pitt is one of those guys dedicated enough to go the extra mile. It’s the way he walks and his body language that really sell the character but then there’s the depth of the character as well. He has self-doubts and regrets. He makes mistakes and realizes them. General McMahon is a great character in this film.
The comedy is WITTY! I really like witty comedy and this movie delivers in a number of both visual gags and one liners. The laughs are spread throughout the film and while they’re occasionally awkward, considering the subject matter, but they do compliment some otherwise dry moments in the movie.
This movie has some disjointed pacing. There are moments when the movie shifts tone and adopts characteristics from other genre’s that could have been better. There are moments when War Machine teases greatness with variety by giving it the opportunity to showcase the gravity and consequences of war in a few key moments but instead shies away from and quickly go back into its comfort zones.
Topher Grace is distracting. I love that 70’s show but the fact that the guy hasn’t aged a day since the show went off the air doesn’t make it easy for him to not be a distraction. I want a Fez one-liner every time I see him.
The commentary of the film is really heavy handed at times and takes away from some of the development and pacing established prior. There are moments when things are going good and you really really get immersed and then War Machine decides to inject commentary in an a way that just seems jarring. I welcome the opinion but man alive I was really rocking out to some of those scenes before they got all heavy and stuff.
The movie rushes to an end but does so meaningfully. The movie establishes a point in the closing moments with a welcome cameo giving us plenty to ponder as the credits begin.
I liked aspects of War Machine but overall I could have skipped this one. The film tries to juggle a lot and at some point let me slip through its fingers before the end and I lost all investment and interest in the characters. I can’t help but wonder if that may have been intentional in order to drive home a point but then again I’m not 100% sure I cared anymore.
Watch if you’re a huge Brad Pitt or Topher Grace fan or even if you have a high interest in the Afghanistan War, but that’s about the only reasons.