“War Machine” (Netflix)
Directed by David Michôd
“Moneyball”, “Big Short”, “Moonlight”, “The OA”. Plan B, Brad Pitt’s production company, has made dozens of outstanding, high quality films and series since it began in 2004. It’s also made some duds, though far fewer in number. Alas, for all its sincerity, dead-serious satire, interesting performance choices and lofty goals, “War Machine” must unfortunately be placed squarely in that latter category.
That’s not to say you won’t find positives in it – most notably the performances of Lakeith Stanfield & Meg Tilly. Stanfield, especially, seems to be the only one playing any sense of reality in the entire film. His scenes are devastating, yet utterly out-of-place with the entire mood and direction of the rest of the film. Meg Tilly, almost meets him in an emotional sense, but fails only due to a script that attempts to (over)utilize black humor…when, in fact, it is all heartbreak…none more so than her sense of loneliness, loss and lack of consequence in her own life as it relates to our protagonist’s.
And therein lies the problem of the whole thing. At its core, what is “War Machine”? It wants to be an Afghan war version of “The Big Short”. But, where that film had performances that pushed past caricature, “War Machine’s” main group of characters verge on being clownish (with the two exceptions above, and perhaps Tilda Swinton and Will Poulter). So when the third act comes around, and you are FINALLY beginning to believe these are actual men…poof…it’s over. Perhaps if they’d made it a series, even two or three parts, they may have had more time to let it open up and breathe a bit. As it is, it feels like a Dr. Frankenstein creation – a little of this, a little of that. It’s too bad. I would have watched another episode or two. These are interesting characters in a very interesting story – crushed by little things that don’t jibe. Scoot McNairy, for instance, acts as a narrator throughout the first two acts, then appears in a scene, and then disappears altogether, until the last line of the film. It’s not a big deal, but that’s one of several examples of the disunity pervading “Machine in its overall look, feel and direction.
While I can’t recommend the film outright…you SHOULD watch the first fifteen minutes just to see Pitt’s bizarre physical choices for his character…especially his jogging posture. Hilarious, if not at all connected to the rest of his story. His Gen. McMahon becomes quite real only in battle…both in war and in marriage. I wish he had brought some of that to the film’s first act, so we’d have had something to grab on to earlier on.
“War Machine” could’ve been terrific…maybe even should have been, given its cast and creative team. But, it’s just not and with so much great media available to watch at any moment, two hours is a lot to sacrifice for something so disjointed – no matter how “important” its message.
Written on 6/20/2017