War Machine brings little to no nuance to the post-9/11 war sub-genre. It is a bloated film about one general’s ego and his belief the Afghan war wasn’t won yet because he wasn’t there.
General Glen McMahon (Brad Pitt) finds himself coming to Afghanistan to fight a war. No, better yet, to win a war. However, and this is a sticking point for the film: How do you win a war against insurgents? People like McMahon, so it seems, are trained to win wars against nations. How does one stop insurgencies? This is a question never answered besides the idea of good PR. However, as he noted, kill 2 insurgents and you end up with 20. Much less, as Corporal Billy Cole (Lakeith Stanfield) notes, how in the world are you going to tell an insurgent from a regular civilian? Of which his commander Ortega (Will Poulter), alongside McMahon notes it is by them having a weapon, but by then it is too late isn’t it?
But, in general, what we watch is a man very ill-prepared for the task given. His country can’t provide him the resources he needs for political reasons, the cooperation of other nations is increasingly limited, and he is unable to say who is friend or foe. On top of that, he is surrounded by men who either would lick his boots clean or think he is an arrogant putz. Which you may end up agreeing with.
A good leader lives by a set of rules. A great leader knows when to break them.
A Reminder of How The Afghan Government Was Limited as Was Their Country’s Future Under the US
Sometimes it is easy to forget with movies like that that in the process of invading these countries or dropping bombs on them, often times the local government wasn’t involved. If it was established, so it seems, they weren’t given much choice in the matter. The Americans were out for blood and standing in their way could mean the end of your life and hell for your people. So, all you could do is be a puppet while the Americans took over the cities and harassed the locals.
But what is also asked about in the film is the after. Something always talked about but, unfortunately, no war film actually addresses. Take for instance, what could become the main export, the big time job, once Americans left? Because of the way American anti-competition laws are, though cotton could grow in Afghanistan, so we are told, that is forbidden. If only because it would go against America’s interest. So what can they do but keep growing the stuff which is something they can’t really trade on the global market, but makes people money?
And while the issues above aren’t huge focuses here, it is nice to see them noted in a largely inconsequential movie.
The Issue of Fighting Insurgents
War films are essentially horror movies but, usually, with better writing. Hence why they are usually noted as dramas. However, there was something about Stanfield’s performance which really makes you question why war films have never been shot like a horror movie. Think about it. Most war films are about going into desolate places trying to find people in hiding. People who come out of nowhere and kill indiscriminately. Watching Stanfield, it is hard to not get into that mindset of not understanding the horror of not knowing who is out to get you.
Which is perhaps why he is singled out, alongside Poulter, despite the wrath of people we meet. For while most war films feature young soldiers with various reasons for joining the military, there is something about the fear of Stanfield that isn’t often seen. Which becomes very clear as he is next to Poulter who seems like the average soldier. Someone who maybe afraid of dying or his peers dying but doesn’t hold that fear of engaging in combat.
Making Stanfield perhaps the sole person you can really connect or identify with. For you can imagine being in his footsteps, unsure of what may be behind a wall or a rooftop, and being on edge all the time. All the while, you are being warned not to be paranoid, not to follow your instincts, for in protecting your own life you are messing things up for the team. Making their lives harder by trying to maintain your own.
It’s 2 Hours Starring Brad Pitt in What What Seems to Be a War Focused, And Less Silly Version Of Anchorman
I never got the appeal of Brad Pitt. Which isn’t to say he is a bad actor or all of his movies are trash. More so, I never saw him as someone who could command his audience as the lead. To me, he is the type who needs actors around him he can feed off of. Well, if not use as a crutch. Something which he doesn’t have available to him here. He is the lead. Point blank, period. One which doesn’t have a single actor, nor actress [note]Of which there aren’t any prominent actresses in this film, similar to Netflix’s Sand Castle[/note] who challenges him or can be relief on.
Which makes for a horrible watch experience for while you get his gestures and way of talking should be comedic, they’re not. It is like he saw Anchorman one too many times and decided to adapt that persona for this film. Hell, even some of his stooges kind of seem like Ron Burgundy’s. Making it where, throughout the 2 hours, you are constantly led to question why is this film so long when it really isn’t pursuing saying anything relevant or insightful? Much less, focusing on some aspect of war we haven’t seen 100s of times over?
Overall: Negative (Skip It)
You know, it is becoming increasingly hard to take an interest in war movies. Especially ones in which the focus is on American soldiers who, thanks to some sense of nationalism and a desire for retribution after 9/11, feel they have a mandate. All the while, we see them in a foreign country dealing with people who are put between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, they are terrorized by the local militia sponsored by a terrorist organization. One in which, if they help their enemy, they will be killed. Then, on the other, they are terrorized by Americans and their allies. People who aren’t going against men who can be identified by uniforms. So, with that in mind, they treat everyone as a suspect. You step the wrong way, look too long, grab for something out of a bag, and that can end your life. Plus, with the acknowledgment that they won’t occupy your land forever, you know whatever they did isn’t everlasting. Their absence will lead to a revert right back to how things were. Especially if you didn’t live in a city.
Leading to why this is being labeled as Skip. For while Stanfield brings an interesting perspective, it isn’t enough. Also, while it was nice how it noted, from the people to government, how they were at the mercy of Americans, that too wasn’t enough. For the real focus of War Machine was a man looking for glory. Said man played by Brad Pitt. Someone who may be generally attractive, perhaps has some form of charisma, but without a better actor to rely on, he drowns due to the weight of his responsibilities. Thus leaving the film with a few interesting perspectives, but those are sadly set aside for one man’s uninteresting journey.