General Glen McMahon (Brad Pitt) is as animated a character as one can possibly be. He is a four-star general who believes that men are imperfect creatures who when left to their own will only play with their dicks and eat chicken. He is made the leader of the coalition forces in Afghanistan and ordered to end the war and set up a democratically elected government. He is given the position after his predecessor is unable to get the job done. Thus Glen walks into the country with his trusted aids to get the job done.
War Machine is one hilarious and satirical look at all things American – Afghanistani. McMahon’s orders are not to ask for any more troops and to get the job done using what he has at his disposal. But the General wants to at first capture the Helmand Province that everyone believes cannot be captured and thus asks for more troops to start with. Helmand is run by the Taliban and so the General asks for 40 thousand more troops to be precise.
Post this decision, the General lands in one misadventure after another like him traveling all across Europe to collect grants for his mission, the Democratic election debacle, his face time with Obama and most importantly a rolling stone article that comes out which proves to be the final nail in the coffin of his leadership. There are also some minor events of comic relief that happen including two hilarious meetings with Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan played by Ben Kingsley.
War Machine may not have a plot that is intricate and Oscar-worthy, but it is successful in bringing to the fore, the situational comedy that is characteristic of the predicament of the conquered nation and the conquerors. There are multiple references to the situation of the people as a result of the invasion and how it is almost impossible to make these people believe that the US wants the best for them. There are also scenes that show how hopeless, McMahon’s efforts are to forge goodwill with the people. There are also sequences showing the frustration and loss of grip of the management on the soldiers who are actually waging the war.
This would have been a lesser film had it not been for the performance of Brad Pitt. He is such a charismatic actor that he commands the respect and interest of the viewers whenever he makes an appearance. And to that design, this film is built around him leading to him being present in every scene. His mannerism, his awkwardness and his conduct of himself are some things that will bring a smile to your face automatically.
I loved the two scenes that he shared with Ben Kingsley. Again these scenes are satires of what actually might have happened but they successfully convey the mood and feeling of the situation that was prevalent in Afghanistan even 8 years after the invasion. Kingsley is hilarious.
The film also has some interesting action sequences that are part action, part drama, and part tragedy. It’s very difficult to explain the sequences in words. It’s best that you watch the film to get a grasp of what I am saying. Having said that, the film does have a very chirpy and light mood to whatever it is that it is dealing with.
The narrative never gets heavy or preachy. It is designed more as a comedy than social commentary or drama and it successfully delivers at being that. At about 2 hours, the runtime is perfect to keep you engrossed and hooked and there isn’t a single minute of boredom sans maybe the part in Europe where a few scenes between McMahon and his wife are stretched a wee bit. But that isn’t a serious complaint.
Overall, War Machine is a hilarious take on the war in Afghanistan after 8 years and how a man is charged with ending it but in trying to do so, he fails gloriously. He fails but he fails in style. You will understand what I mean when you see the film in the first place. I will go as far ahead to say that this film easily could have been a theatrical release. It is in the same league as WTF (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot) but only differs in content and treatment. Still, you all can check it out on Netflix where it is streaming currently. If you are into films of this nature, you will love this film.
Rating : 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)