REVIEW: War Machine (2017)

Release Poster – Netflix

The following is a review of Netflix’s War Machine – Directed by David Michôd.

In 2015, Netflix acquired the distribution rights to a film directed by David Michôd and starring Brad Pitt, one of the true movie stars of our day. Netflix acquired the film prior to having premiered both Beasts of No Nation and The Ridiculous Six later in 2015, and this film was thus one of the first major motion picture projects that Netflix had acquired.

Now, in the summer of 2017, the film now titled War Machine has premiered. It has been a long wait for people like me who were excited to see such a high profile production premiere on the streaming service, but it is finally here and, honestly, I don’t think it was worth the wait.

War Machine is the story of a seemingly beloved and confident United States Army General – General Glen McMahon – who is sent overseas to effectively end the war in Afghanistan. Brad Pitt plays General Glen McMahon and he really does give it his all.

It is a gutsy performance as a supremely odd character that maybe would’ve fit better inside a Tarantino or Coen Brothers film. In fact, General McMahon’s voice reminded me very much of Pitt’s performance as Lt. Aldo Raine in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, but Pitt’s performance in War Machine, sadly, isn’t as entertaining.

I think the most entertaining part of Michôd’s War Machine was watching these extremely odd appearances from some of the very best actors out there. Tilda Swinton pops up at one point as an inquisitive German politician, and Sir Ben Kingsley is very fun to watch as President Hamid Karzai. There is also another entertaining last-minute cameo that I won’t reveal here, but that was as ‘out of nowhere’ as the Swinton cameo.

War Machine isn’t the success story that I wanted to write about today. Although certainly the biggest motion picture project for the streaming service since Beasts of No Nation, it doesn’t come close to being as captivating or interesting as the aforementioned 2015 Cary Fukunaga film.

In fact, while I don’t think it is a waste of time to watch the film – there are some very entertaining scenes in the film – I do actually believe that War Machine wastes not just a gutsy central performance from Brad Pitt, but also a strong ensemble cast featuring Emory Cohen, Topher Grace, Anthony Michael Hall, Scoot McNairy, and Will Poulter.

While I did actually enjoy most of the first half of the film, War Machine doesn’t get off to a great start. The film opens with an overwhelming amount of voice-over narration to introduce the premise as well as every single important character around General McMahon.

The voice-over is so overwhelming that it might’ve put me to sleep were it not for the fact that I had just woken up to watch the film. In fact, after twenty minutes or so I jotted down in my notes that I was thoroughly convinced that the narrator would talk more than Pitt’s character would in the entire film, which, I imagine, probably wasn’t the case.

War Machine is a 122 minute long tonally inconsistent war satire film that doesn’t warrant its running time. It almost feels like there are two different films within War Machine: one of them might’ve been more entertaining if it had come from someone as gifted at working with political satire as Armando Iannucci, and the other film is just another depressing war movie set in Afghanistan.

5.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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