Brad Pitt’s War Machine has a lot to offer to a surprisingly wide range of viewers. It’s not a typical battle-oriented film, and there isn’t a lot of death and destruction, just enough to let the audience know there is an armed conflict going on. While some critics might not have enjoyed the film, it merits a second look.
Perhaps War Machine’s biggest appeal is the behind the scenes look at the military machine. Brad Pitt’s film portrays a true story and while perhaps there was some major artistic license taken, it still has a certain ring of truth. These were actual events.
War Machine with Brad Pitt has a certain impartiality to it. Even among the strongest critics, there is some disagreement between them on which characters were right or where each may have gone wrong. There is a sense that no one was blameless, nor was there a clear villain, even though there was a clear scapegoat. Ironically, most critics think there was a definite statement of villainy as the film is colored by each of their own perceptions.
Brad Pitt’s War Machine isn’t an overt political statement. It fails to make moral judgments, and it isn’t a movie about the violence, gore, and glory of the military. Choosing the heroes and the villains from among the cast of characters is left to the viewer. Overall if there is a villain, it is ambition, but it’s not all McMahon’s ambition.
In Brad Pitt’s War Machine, virtually every major player has their own ambitions that lead to miscalculations and downfalls.
Brad Pitt was not necessarily the hero of War Machine. It all depends on how one perceives the characters. It isn’t an overly serious film either, much to the distaste of the critics who called it satire. News 18 summarized the film as an “absurd satire.”
“War Machine appears as a miscalculated shot on an absurd satire about politics, PR machinery, media and an old-school General who wants things to end in a war which he desperately wants to win. The result is a confusing concoction of comedy, political drama, and a man’s mission.”
Brad Pitt’s War Machine was as politically subtle as it was overtly satirical. It wasn’t going to change anyone’s politics. It allowed the viewer to maintain their own peculiar point of view, in a masterfully curious way apparently.
What War Machine showed and few noticed were the parallels between the attitudes of American presidents as opposed to the perspective of generals and soldiers in Korea, Vietnam, and the Afghan conflict portrayed in War Machine. Brad Pitt’s portrayal of McMahon even had some parallels to the end of WWII and Patton as portrayed by George C. Scott, although that was a far more serious movie.
Brad Pitt’s War Machine depicts the frustration of those who are asked to risk their lives while government officials worry about politics and are noncommittal about the goals of the military actions they are directing.
Army Lt. Col. Jason Dempsey, now retired, was a soldier in Afghanistan during the same time period. Dempsey reflected the sentiments of Brad Pitt’s character, General McMahon. Dempsey was an admirer of General Stanley McChrystal the man Brad Pitt’s character MacMahon was loosely based on. Jason Dempsey told the Washington Post he, too, wanted to win the war.
“This was our chance to take a crack at the war and do it right.”
Some critics say the officer portrayed by Brad Pitt and his co-stars are stereotypical jarheads, while there really seems to be more to them than that to others. Reading the reviews clearly shows the diversity of opinions involved because War Machine allows the audience to make their own judgments and choose their own sides.
Brad Pitt as the fictionalized character General McMahon is funny, awe-inspiring, admirable, and perhaps contemptible all at once. His overall “can do” attitude is hilariously out of place among the vast apathy of politicians both American and Afghan.
War Machine clearly depicts the Afghanistan conflict as another Vietnam, but McMahon is reminiscent of George C. Scott’s General Patton. Perhaps that was the entire problem. General McMahon was looking for a fight that could be won like WWII, but he might as well had been in Vietnam.
In Brad Pitt’s War Machine, politicians and officials on all sides were disinterested in victory, or even the basic concept this was a war, and meanwhile, men were risking their lives. A fact not lost on Brad Pitt’s McMahon or the Washington Post’s Greg Jaffe.
“War Machine also nails the way Iraq and Afghanistan can seem like abstractions to those toiling away inside the U.S. military’s sprawling, air-conditioned command posts.”
Brad Pitt’s War Machine is a story of virtually universal self-absorption, hubris, unabashed self-interest and blind ambition, except for the American troops who sought only to win and survive the war. McMahon, oddly, seemed the only one overwhelmingly interested in their goals of both winning and survival.
RELATED REPORTS FROM THE INQUISITR
Brad Pitt’s War Machine is far more complex and masterful than the overt comedic aspect, that is most obvious.
[Featured Image by Shizuo Kambayashi/AP Images]