Movie Review: War Machine

Rating: 4/5

If I had to describe this film in a single word, it would be ‘seductive’. Seductive because when you hear General McMahon (played admirably by Pitt) refer to his plan for Afghanistan as ‘an effort to re-build the nation and win the trust of the people’, the lack of blatant Islamophobia in those words makes you think of him as the sole voice of reason in the War On Terror. However, the seduction makes you forget that the nation is being ‘re-built’ for quite some time now, and American troops aren’t so much part of the solution as they are the problem.

The film narrates the appointment of General Glen McMahon (a veiled version of General Stanley McChystal) as the new head of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. With the Afghan war running in it’s 8th year, the US Administration wants McMahon to help ‘bring it home’. The only problem is that no one has the slightest clue as to what ‘IT’ really is. The General decides to tackle the problem in Afghanistan with the doctrine of Counter-insurgency. Which requires the US forces to win the trust of the local population. Which isn’t easy as the local population considers them invaders in the first place. The series of events culminates into a Rolling-Stone article that leads to McMahon’s fall from grace.

The film is an adaption of Michael Hasting’s book ‘The Operators’ and while it starts out as a spoof on the War on Terror, it slowly begins to take on a more sombre tone. The conversation between Tilda Swinton (playing a German reporter) and Brad Pitt is particularly revealing as General McMahon’s seemingly well-intentioned doctrine is scrutinized with brutal honesty and genuine fear. The film is guilty of being inconsistent in projecting McMahon as either a lunatic or a genius (distinctions than often coincide), but the sharp wit and humor of the film make up for such inconsistencies. The question the film tries to answer is, whether the Bull can really ask to repair the China Shop?