Film Review: WAR MACHINE (USA 2017) ***

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war_machine.jpgAn absurdist war story 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.

Director: David Michôd
Writers: Michael Hastings (book), David Michôd (screenplay)
Stars: Brad Pitt, Anthony Hayes, John Magaro

Review by Gilbert Seah

A Netflix original movie opening only on Netflix and proudly not in theatres May 26th, WAR MACHINE opens as arrogantly as its voiceover, as its content and as its platform. It is a film directed and written by David Michôd inspired by the nonfiction book The Operators by Michael Hastings. It fictionalizes the events in the book based on the firing of United States Army General Stanley McChrystal.

The voiceover praises America, that seeks peace, that needs to find peace and win wars. If the war like the one in Afghanistan in 1993 cannot be won, then they sack the guy in charge and hire a new guy. Thus the film’s protagonist, first introduced as Glen (Brad Pitt) with the WAR MACHINE is described and said to be called THE LION KING by his men, and shown walking confidently at an airport lounge before deployment telling his men: “Let’s do it!” The beginning sequence primes the audience for an exciting 2 hours to follow, where hopefully they see a quirky film, different from the ones screened theatrically. It also warns the audience to be careful of the accuracy projected on screen. After all, how can Glen’s men call him The Lion King in 1993 when that film was released only in 1994. Glen eats one meal a day, sleeps only 4 hours and runs 7 miles every morning. Glen loves his men and his men love him back.

It’s Brad Pitt’s movie. Pitt is in almost very scene. He has a constant sarcastic growl painted on his face throughout the film. Pitt shows he is star material and he definitely commands screen presence. His gruff voice sounds like George C. Scott’s in PATTON. He hams up every scene and is as funny as his funniest role – the fitness instructor in BURN AFTER READING. Tilda Swinton who seems to be appearing in every Korean or Netflix movie is immediately recognizable in a cameo as a German reporter who questions Glen. Topher Grace has the supporting role of Glen’s loyal public relations supporter while Ben Kingsley plays the Afghanistan President. Meg Tilly has the odd role of Glen’s long-suffering wife. She provides the film’s most sentimental moment when she confesses her true feelings to her husband at their 30th Anniversary dinner.

As a satire, WAR MACHINE is funnier than it should be, where it should be more biting. Many critics have agreed on this point that the film is thus a bit below average.

For a war film, there are hardly any battle scenes except for the one at the end. The film also lacks a climax, expected in most films.

WAR MACHINE is a worthwhile watch if one has Netflix. It is at least a new and an original film compared to all the other films (mostly more than a year old and already seen by most subscribers) available. The film is currently playing on Netflix since Friday May 26th.Trailer: 


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