The Netflix film “War Machine” has drawn a series of negative reviews criticizing Brad Pitt’s portrayal of General Glen McMahon, I guess a stand in for what appears to be the real subject, General Stanley McChrystal who was fired by President Obama in 2010. Though the movie has not been well received by critics I believe it has a number of redeeming traits. It is obviously a satire of America’s approach to war in Afghanistan, a war which we are not winning and have no business committing more troops to as President Trump has strongly hinted he is considering. As a member of the German parliament offers in one fascinating scene in the film as she deconstructs America’s position and strategy; she states, what should be considered the ultimate reality of our position in Afghanistan after sixteen years of fighting, “Please leave now!”
The film was inspired by Michael Hastings book, THE OPERATORS an incisive and somewhat funny look behind the scenes of American military commanders and how they conducted the war in Afghanistan. Director David Michod has created a commentary on General Stanley McChrystal who was placed in charge of the war in 2009 and because of comments in an interview with Hastings for “Rolling Stone” magazine was relieved of his command. The McMahon character is the epitome of the macho military figure who has the loyalty of his men and is treated as hero by all as they defer to him. Despite his limitations, McMahon does project a degree of empathy toward the Afghani people, but in the end for him it is about winning, a dogmatic attachment to some pretty dubious ideas, and like many of his type, he knows how to succeed where many have failed before. McMahon is chasing a victory that it seems has passed the American military and politicians by long ago.
Other characters in the film are a bit over the top in terms of their comments and actions. However, two in particular, Hamid Karzai, portrayed by Ben Kingsley, fits the “over the top” description, but it also reflects the corruption, egoism, and incompetence of the former Afghani president. According to A.O. Scott in his New York Times review of the film, the second individual, General Michael T. Flynn, portrayed by Anthony Michael Hall may provide insight into the man President Trump appointed, fired, and now misses as his National Security Advisor.
Overall, the film is funny in spots but the reality of what it represents is maddening. I agree with the flaws that other reviewers have pointed out, but I am still glad I spent the two hours and two minutes watching it.