War Machine

War Machine (David Michôd, 2017)

A successful, charismatic four-star general, Glenn McMahon, leaps in like a rock star to command NATO forces in Afghanistan, only to be taken down by a journalist's no-holds-barred exposé.

Brad Pitt, Anthony Hayes, Ben Kingsley, Russell Crowe

Much of this is narrated in voiceover by minor character Sean Cullen, as a writer for Rolling Stone. Normally, I would see this as a bad thing, but in this film it's the best, because of the wise things it says about war generally and the situation in Afhganistan in particular. Also, it's part of the plot, in the sense that the article as published in the magazine results in the end of the main character's engagement in the story. This is historically based, by the way: there really was a Rolling Stone article which brought about significant change.

It's easy to see why Brad Pitt's acting provoked some debate at a festival. It tends towards caricature. But then this is not a totally realistic film.

And that's the other debatable aspect: just what kind of film is this? And the answer, to quote Walt Whitman (but exaggerate a bit), is that it contains multitudes. It inhabits several genres. One of them is realism - and indeed it never strays that far from the realistic. It uses 'satire' to soften the anti-war theme, making the film more acceptable to a larger audience. The scenes when the combat group finally does go into action form the straightforward war film some viewers may have been expecting. The scene in the Afghani dwelling, with the man with one son living and one dead, is moving.

The ending, which no reviewer should reveal, is worth waiting for.

David Michôd is having a meteoric career. This is only his third feature, and here he is helming a $60m film.


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Garry Gillard | New: 4 June, 2017 | Now: 17 July, 2020