Brad Pitt certainly isn’t the issue in Netflix’s latest Original movie; a bold but far from brilliant entry for 2017.
Providing yet another depiction of war for Netflix’s ever-expanding branch of Original movies, Brad Pitt-led War Machine has finally arrived, promising a high level of political satire in the days where the war in Afghanistan raged on despite much opposition. At least that’s what all the promotion for the film led us to believe, with the film instead losing its way with a mixing of tones that leave you confused and jaded by its closing second hour.
Part-based on real life and part-satirically edged politics of war, War Machine focuses on the confident and driven Glen McMahon (Pitt), a man brought in by the Obama administration to take charge in Afghanistan following a successful turn in the Iraqi fight. But with the President clearly earmarking to his country the removal of all soldiers in the coming 18 months, McMahon is there to win the fight, demanding 40,000 soldiers extra to join the fight and butting heads with the most powerful man on the planet. With that, a less-than-capable foreign President (Ben Kingsley) and many others seemingly against him, McMahon looks to tackle the war head-on in his own way with plenty of struggle.
First of all, it can’t be said that Netflix’s decision to spend a wad of cash on Brad Pitt to drive their latest film vehicle was a poor decision. In fact, if it wasn’t for Pitt then War Machine wouldn’t be half the film it is, with the Hollywood A-lister channeling his Inglorious Basterds turn for Tarantino somewhat and creating the cocksure and always entertaining McMahon. He’s a character he is constantly engaging, often rather humorous and a perfect satire focal point; the issue here is that the film itself doesn’t maintain this throughout its runtime.
Now, it’s certainly easy to describe a film these days as being muddled in terms of its tone, with so many now shifting themes and tones that it almost feels normal in a sense, but War Machine does just that and fails in doing so. For a film that instantly becomes recognisable as a satire, it gradually descends into territory that simply feels so misplaced it’s almost like walking a completely different movie entirely. Gone is the wisecracking, hilarious cursing to be replaced by a newly placed focus on the reality and drama of the battleground – it’s as though director David Michod forgot to add in some meaningful combat and emotion and decided to throw it in at the last opportunity.
This shift in gear and change in direction results in a truly jarring experience, with the whole experience resembling two very different films entirely fused together. It’s a shame really as Pitt does his best with the content and is, for the most part, supremely entertaining in his role but it’s everything around him that slowly crumbles to the ground in a pile of mediocrity. Netflix certainly showed they have clout with bringing in their biggest star yet, and while War Machine may prove to be yet another bold and brave project that major studios likely wouldn’t explore, it is going to take something of significantly better quality to sustain audience levels if Netflix are to become a true major player in the mainstream cinema realm.
War Machine is available to stream via Netflix now.