CAST: Brad Pitt, Anthony Hayes, John Magaro, Emory Cohen, Anthony Michael Hall, Topher Grace, Will Poulter, Tilda Swinton, Ben Kingsley
DIRECTION: David Michôd
DURATION: 2 hours 2 minutes
WAR MACHINE STORY: David Michôd, the writer-director of War Machine, recreates a U.S. General’s roller-coaster rise & fall as part reality, part savage parody – raising the spectre of where the line between them lies today. At the story’s core is Brad Pitt’s sly take on a successful, charismatic four-star general who entered Afghanistan like a rock star to command NATO forces only to be taken down by a journalist's no-holds-barred exposé.
WAR MACHINE REVIEW: ‘War Machine’ revolves around Glen McMahon (Brad Pitt) – a war-hardened general with one clear agenda: to put an end to the war. This solution is marred by the fact that US Marines are attempting to win over a war-torn Afghan population while hunting ISIS terrorists, resulting in a significant number of casualties at both ends. McMahon is a firm believer in the counterinsurgency and motivates his group of Marines to follow him into battle at the drop of a hat. His determination inspires an almost cultish reverence amongst his troops, who blindly trust him and his solutions even though there’s no evidence of their efficacy. They surround him in a sycophant cocoon, enabling a vicious cycle as they reinforce his unrealistic outlook, which only propels them further into misguided chaos – eventually leading to their downfall.
Brad Pitt inhabits the brazen general in his entirety. Gone is the glamorous leading man of international appeal – in his place is a larger-than-life character who, like the actor portraying him, is no less of an iconic figure. Brad Pitt imbibes McMahon’s persona on various emotional levels ranging from bravado to vulnerability, but he goes a step further by incorporating physical peculiarities that display the toll war has taken on his body, along with his mind. This could have easily descended into an over-the-top depiction, but Pitt is a veteran of emotionally layered roles with a firm grasp of comedic timing and delivery. This skilled combination allows him a nuanced portrayal that’s grounded in subtlety, thereby keeping his character from becoming a caricature.
Following the undeniably humorous predicament that McMahon and his cronies dig themselves into, there is a gutting sense of dismay and distress when the real face of combat is revealed. Writer-director David Michôd uses comedy to lower your defenses only to deliver the sucker punch, well into the last act of the film. His ability to maintain an underlying sense of frustration and helplessness, which builds towards a deeper understanding of the futility of combat, is a triumph in itself. He also obtains memorable performances from the entire cast; even minor roles played by Sir Ben Kingsley and Tilda Swinton are affecting. All these parts work as a well-oiled device resulting in a moving study of the disastrous impact of war, amidst all the laughs. Pitt - who also produced the film - and Michôd, lead us down an intricate rabbit hole to expose the gears that keep the ‘War Machine’ turning. Don’t be surprised to hear about award nominations on this one, and make sure to add it to your watch-list as soon as it’s out.
‘War Machine’ premieres globally on Netflix on May 26, 2017.
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