by Ian Morton
War Machine promises a lot but struggles to find its footing both tonally and within its central plot.
General Glen McMahon is a decorated war hero, enlisted to end the war in Afghanistan after a gruelling 8 years of war. Taking over from previous efforts, the plot follows the general as he attempts to rebuild, restructure and reinvent the ‘liberated’ battleground.
Moving in a slightly different direction to his previous efforts, David Michôd attempts to tell a different kind of war story that ultimately falls flat as it tries to tick all the boxes. Deciding to focus on the ‘business’ elements of the war effort, Michôd starts strong by going into the socio-political aspect of war but eventually gets lost when trying to merge satire with melodrama. The result is a film that doesn’t know whether it wants to be an insightful look at the career and sacrifices of a decorated war hero or a satirical, anti-war ’30 rock’.
Frustratingly, the messy tone manages to bleed into the story, with subplots lending itself to each of the confused genres. Whether we are trying to gain insight into our characters troubled home life or being shown the nature of war after the bombs have dropped; the shifting tone is only further muddled as it jumps from one scene to the next.
Thankfully, Brad Pitt rallies the troops early with a strong screen presence but this isn’t without its issues either. Chewing the scenery from the get go, his exaggerated character is certainly a call back to his turn in Inglorious Basterds, however, after a while, his presence becomes rather monotonous, relying on the same expression and movements than showing a distinct range of character. Taken hand in hand with a fairly forgettable supporting cast, we find ourselves with an unexciting lead with no one to share the screen with.
Once everything is taken into account, War Machine is more mess than meaningful. Trying to blend genres is a hard task to take on, especially when dealing with war and satire. Unfortunately David Michôd misses the mark in terms of tone while Pitt falls rarely short in a role we have seen him successful in before. 2 out of 5.