US General Glen McMahon is sent to Afghanistan to bring the war “to an end”; to “close it out”; to “produce a better set of graphs”. All of which feels like differing missions to him depending on who he talks to. Instead, he decides he wants to do his own thing and “win it”. High on bombast and with a glittering military career behind him, McMahon sets out to enlist a coalition of the unwilling to deliver his great victory.
As a dark, absurdist comedy about the nature of modern warfare, incestial politics and one man’s folly, ‘War Machine’ would seem to be a welcome addition to previous classics such as ‘Catch-22’ and ‘M.A.S.H’. Unfortunately it’s not. As blind as its central character, it wades into its subject as ill prepared as Brad Pitt’s performance. Delivered with a permanently gruff voice that borders on a poor man’s impression, Pitt’s Glen McMahon fails to engage with any of those he is tasked with coercing. This leaves what laughs can be found within the antics of his frat-boy entourage and their caricatured storylines.
Like the fervent desire of Pitt’s McMahon, just wanting to be something isn’t enough…
If you are looking for a biting satire on American interventionist politics, then ’War Machine’ is not it. It wants to be, but it isn’t. Like the fervent desire of Pitt’s McMahon, just wanting to be something isn’t enough for a movie with this calibre of star or director. Solely redeemed by Ben Kingsley’s and Tilda Swinton’s genuinely funny performances, ‘War Machine’ swiftly grinds to a halt, derailed by its own ambition and its unwillingness to savage its source material.
So, if you enjoyed’War Machine’s’ unintentional companion piece ‘The Men Who Stare At Goats’ then go no further. That is the superior film. Like a goat led to the slaughter ‘War Machine’ determinedly trudges its way to a conclusion, wheezing with rhetoric and relevancy along the way. For a better take-down of the America’s involvement in Afghanistan seek out ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’ which is the better “true tale” told as this bland ’War Machine’ is stuck in neutral gear.