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Drama, War, Comedy
IMDB rating:
David Michôd
Anthony Michael Hall as Greg Pulver
RJ Cyler as Andy Moon
Keith Stanfield as Cpl. Billy Cole
Emory Cohen as Willy Dunne
Aymen Hamdouchi as Badi Basim
Meg Tilly as Jeannie McMahon
Daniel Betts as Simon Ball
Anthony Hayes as Pete Duckman
Alan Ruck as Pat McKinnon
Will Poulter as Ricky Ortega
Nicholas Jones as Dick Waddle
Topher Grace as Matt Little
John Magaro as Cory Staggart
Brad Pitt as Gen. Glen McMahon
Storyline: A general from the US is sent to Afghanistan to 'clean' the situation up after eight years of war in the country. He finds himself amongst tired soldiers and disillusioned politicians eager to leave. In this situation he feels his mission is to 'win' the war, something deemed impossible by everyone around him.
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Bore Machine
This movie tried to overlay a childish caricature of the Afghan War and its actors onto a flat and uninspiring story with unbelievably deranged and almost mentally incompetent characters it was clearly attempting to defame. Indeed, the unjust treatment of General McChrystal, who is the thinly veiled protagonist in the character of General McMahon, is continued in this 60 million dollar film. Ironically, the movie would have been a lot more interesting with some dramatic irony. Perhaps they could have contraposed the deranged, unjust and unreliable narrator, to a tragic hero, as opposed to recycling the cliché of the out of touch military man who is megalomaniacally seeking his own glory at the expense of lives of his men and the poor civilians who have to pay the price?

Even though American Sniper stood back from making clear political judgments on the Iraq War, it successfully managed to capture the man and the American Spirit, so it was far more powerful than tired, smug pacifism of Bore Machine.
Excellent self-criticism
Everything I saw about the movie before I saw the movie pointed to a bold critique of US foreign policy and war politics, so I didn't expect an action filled nail-biter. It did deliver what I expected, and did so phenomenally. The issues the movie brings up and the things the characters said really, truly couldn't have been said more openly and directly. As the narrator would have you know, it's going to fall on deaf ears where it matters the most, granted, but it's one heck of a catharsis session all the same.

Where the progression of events gets too slow, the brilliant acting comes to the rescue. Pitt's performance didn't look to me as smooth and believable as it used to be, but Tilda Swinton and Ben Kingsley blew my mind. With their impeccable accents and spot on mannerisms, it was near impossible to tell they were just actors (save for their very familiar faces). There were a few pretty funny lines, too.

To anyone who doesn't mind listening to dialogue and watching out for subtle goings-on, this movie is a must, MUST see.
Confusion in tone
War Machine is a recent straight to Netflix film starring Brad Pitt. After several box office flops, the best and most obvious outcome for leading actor Brad Pitt is for Netflix services. War Machine appears to be based on true events and is described as a war comedy-drama. However, this film has a confusing tone and often settles on what it appears to wanting to be. It stands out not as a comedy as in the film isn't funny but is more light hearted in tone, and plays somewhat of a parody of a serious war film such as Lone Survivor or the Hurt Locker, then shifts towards a more darker toned drama film, with very few action scenes. Overall, War Machine was not worth the hype it has received, as the film is quite uninteresting (for a true based story) and is rather boring. The performances are quite decent, as Brad Pitt is able to play a different type of character than his typical characters. Though the main problem, are the supporting cast, as they are not interesting enough characters for us the audience to care and sympathize for an entire two hours.
ups and downs
Gen. Glen McMahon (Brad Pitt) is no non-sense soldier. He lives a Spartan life often away from his family. He and his team such as the always shouting Greg Pulver (Anthony Michael Hall) are called in to cleanup the Afganistan quagmire. He is told to push the needle and not request for more troops. Instead, he is driven to win and sees his way where everyone else has failed. He uses any means to get his way while not getting his meeting with Obama. He finds President Karzai (Ben Kingsley), an isolated corrupt leader. Media consultant Matt Little (Topher Grace) suggests getting him an article in Rolling Stones.

This dark comedy is too real to be funny. If Strangelove actually happened, the absurd movie would be less fun. One is always reminded that real people died here and there because the character of McMahon is based on a real person. While there are interesting bits, the general sense of this movie is one of tired resignation.

I don't know if it's the Rolling Stones reporter but I'm reminded of Almost Famous. In that movie, the reporter is the protagonist and he's the eyes with which the audience sees the story. The rock star is a subject who is slowly revealed. In this movie, we are given only the narration of reporter Sean Cullen for the most part. He shows up for a limited role later in the movie. McMahon is the protagonist and we're stuck with him for good and for ill.

Of all the characters, the most compelling is the 'confused' Marine Cpl. Billy Cole. His first scene with McMahon is devastating. His face is haunting. What he says resonates more than any other character. In the end, he is a minor character. His other scene is another compelling sequence as his squad goes into a hostile town. Again he is more compelling than anyone else and it is emotionally draining. This movie could have been great but McMahon can't be the protagonist. He is an absurd side character like Karzai in this movie.
Intriguing perspective on the US war on whatever
It wasn't a movie I enjoyed very much, but it was a good movie. You can feel it in your guts. It's a description of the US operations in Afghanistan, and I had expected a liberal viewpoint that made fun of the mess there. But it wasn't so. It actually showed viewpoints from multiple perspectives.

Brad Pitt plays a general, newly appointed to the region in order to "fix things". And he is trying to. He fights bureaucracy, politicians, and insurgents alike in order to get things done. He has a faithful group of subordinates who worship him and help him do whatever he wants. Ironically, his technical approach makes him the enemy of the US administration, which only needs to show they are trying, without actually having to succeed. Ben Kingsley has a few scenes as president Karzai that are ridiculously funny, too. "But I am acting as a leader. I am unavailable", he says in one scene. Hilarious.

In the end, one cannot but sympathize with a guy who wants to end the war, militarily or course, by unequivocally winning it, regardless of what human issues are hindering the victory. He has a job to do, even if it's obvious no one wants him to do it. The movie shows how these kinds of "wars" were never meant to be won, even if you had someone actually trying to.

Bottom line: A movie is impressive when it manages to portray a US army general as a simple task oriented technician, hired like you would hire a plumber to do a job. It gets even more impressive when it shows how impossible that job really is. And the acting was great. The mood was a little too deadpan for me. It is something that amuses you internally while you wonder why everything is moving so slow. I believe this was deliberate, in order for the viewer to understand a little bit of how slow things are really moving in the real world.
Nowadays Dr Strangelove?
For movies whose screenplay is supposed to be relevant (which are... all of them except the trashiest of entertainment) dubbing can be as damaging to the original as a tone-deaf song cover. In Italy (and in most central-southern Europe) since the dawn of commercial cinema distributors have developed a very capable dubbing industry: unfortunately I find that this "art" a lot of times does ruin the original. Why don't we have Mozart's requiem in Japanese? Isn't there a relevant market for classical music? Of course any music student is having shivers down his spine at the idea... because it's a stupid idea. But well... some had this idea 70 years ago and apparently none felt like it was worth to change things since.

As I doubt producers do care with what their paying customers do, I believe writers, directors and actors should require that their works will not be dubbed. But possibly they don't care either... And this tells a lot about the average education of these categories...

Anyway, in a movie like this one it's hard to pass on some stupid writing: we are talking about war, about international politics and about our world. And while we are used to listen to any possible position on the news or on the internet it's hardly bearable for me to see certain extreme levels of unintentional idiocy in a movie. To my sensitivity some phrases felt as "smart & funny" as laughing at people with handicaps. Whatever... I account this to an unprofessional translation and actually the movie improved a lot after the first 10-20 minutes (that's where I had a hard time with the script: did they switch translator later?). What I felt insulting slowly became surreal, sarcastic and grotesque: in a good and almost sophisticated way I'd say.

To the actual movie now:

This is the story of how a decorated general accepts the "publicly accepted" tasks of winning a war against terror, not losing resources, disengage conflicts and earn civil trust in modern day Afganistan.

Brad Pitt is the lead and is out of his depth imho: I can't simply believe for 1 second that he is a (dumb) 60 something modern-day successful military. Nonetheless he tries hard enough for me to forget about this and pretend he's what he's supposed to be. The budget (except the one for actors I guess) feels basic in terms of production but photography, scenes and costumes are as good as needed (where did they spend 60M $? Are military equipment scenes that expensive?).

While not a great accomplishment "War machine" shows well some things and does so without any docu feel or paternalistic "I know it better" tone:

The uncoordinated (and ultimately pointless) endeavors of international politics;

The inability (or impossibility?) of the military to adapt to a world that functions with principles different than "strenght" and "order";

The media/cultural machine as an entity much more powerful (and yet harder to control) in determining "things" than any actual political initiative;

The egoistic perspective of American (and worldwide) business, bureaucracy, military when coping with conflicts of interest possibly influencing YOUR OWN career;

The reputation of powerful men as pure propaganda to instill trust and maintain control: real men are actually less capable and ultimately less powerful than we're led to believe.
Weird but thought-provoking
I agree with what many other reviewers say, about it being confusing but still pertinent and that it might go over many viewers' heads because in general many Americans just have no idea that the US is still actively conducting warfare in Afghanistan. I feel like it was a pointed, clear message about our presence there, but that many of us were perhaps expecting another Fury or Inglorious Basterds. Others have spoken about all the characters in the movie, so I won't add anything, but I'm amazed to see that no one has once mentioned Meg Tilly as Gen. Glenn McMahon's wife. I haven't seen Meg act in anything in ages, but this was a terrific and nuanced performance. Male soldiers with fewer lines and less screen time have merited call outs, but really, Meg Tilley was amazing, just as amazing as the wonderful Tilda Swinton or Ben Kingsley. Her eyes never left Brad Pitt, and you could just imagine what their thirty years of marriage must have been like. Her subtle gestures and half-spoken words created a picture of 30 years of unwavering loyalty and devotion to a man she adores and respects, but her face shows how much those often lonely years cost. When she said her final line of, "I'm proud of me too.", I found it thrilling. I hope we see more of her in the future, because she was definitely one of astonishing bright points in this movie.
Not awful, but it isn't going to be your movie of the year
I never thought a war movie with Brad Pitt can go wrong. Well, it did. But let's start with the good things! War Machine is a unique movie. It is unique in storytelling, acting, viewpoint - which makes it a refreshing experience in the world of superhero movies. There are a few well-done scenes that will make you think about this whole damn thing in Afghanistan - which is probably what the creators wanted to achieve. A few could argue about whether they remained neutral in the topic, but there are signs showing that they tried - so no bad point there either.

On the other hand, just by taking the risk of being unique, they weren't able to translate this to winning aspects. I could find the fun in the ridiculous running of Brad Pitt, which is just like the original US Army general portrayed (I have a friend who runs just like that and still went for an army career, no idea why people with bad running technique have military-obsession). Even his gray hair and over-sized clothes made sense (although you could feel that they were a bit overdone even for satire). But why the heck did he had to alter his voice just for playing Glenn McMahon?! You don't do that at professional level, who thought it's going to work? He's goddamn Brad Pitt - if he fits the role, he can fit it even with his own voice! The rest of the cast remained a bit out of spotlight for the whole runtime and I'm not sure that introduction scene at the beginning was a good idea - it's too much information at once and the viewer will have no experience about the characters, just a few narrated sentences. It wouldn't be a problem if it's really a political movie, but as for being a strange crossover between political and war movie I don't think it worked.

I think Netflix tried to bite too big for a first big feature film. There are some points in the movie where you can see that they tried to save the situation, but overall I'd book War Machine as a failure.
Comedy? Drama? - Both missing from this tribute to idiocy.
The film is approximately 2 hours long.

2 hours of a deadly dull attempt to satirize war and those who lead it. Brad Pitts' attempt to convey a rigidly martial soldier, a man of inflexible values and honour is both laughable (and not in a funny way) and cringe-worthy.

Pitts' performance is so over-the-top it actually lands on its feet.

The 'plot' - and I use the word loosely - is as puddle deep as the acting. I don't need constant narration to tell me what going on.

The movie felt like I was watching out-takes, I kept wondering when I'd see something actually happening... right to the end credits.

Poor show all round. Avoid. Pull your own teeth as an alternative.
Entertaining, if not gripping
It's entertaining, funny, and generally worth a watch. While it won't have you clinging to the edge of your seat or breaking out in tears (few movies do, after all) it's perfectly good for a night in.

Being someone who's followed the conflict in Afghanistan closely for years I suspect some of the subtle jokes might be somewhat less effective on people with little previous interest in the subject - which might partially explain some of the less stellar ratings.

But ultimately that's not to the film's detriment in my eyes. Give it a try. It's a million times better than the majority of Netflixes original movie content.
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