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Netflix hopes Brad Pitt’s star power will fuel their “War Machine”

Streaming services are really making their mark on the cinematic world. Between Amazon and Netflix, the film festival circuit has seen some big time buys from these would be studios. Netflix has gone a step further, funding some huge projects. One such movie is War Machine, a hugely baity satire that the service forked over heavy money to produce. Starring Brad Pitt and hitting on timely material, this really seemed like it would be an opportunity for the service to contend for some Oscars. Sadly, it isn’t up to snuff in that regard. Still, audiences might be interested in seeing Pitt don the fatigues once again.

The film is a satire about military bureaucracy. Initially positioned to be about General Stanley McChrystal since it’s an adaptation of the non fiction book The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan, which is about the General. Instead, this centers on Gen. Glen McMahon (Pitt), chosen to lead the operation in Afghanistan. Arriving with his men, McMahon wants not just to manage the war, but to win it. As such, he institutes his obscure methodology, running into opposition all along the way. Whether it’s a useless Afghan President Karzai (Ben Kingsley) or the chain of command within the United States military, McMahon seems in over his head. With a reporter for Rolling Stone (Scoot McNairy) following him around, is disaster inevitable? Yes it is. David Michôd adapts the Michael Hastings book and directs, with cinematography by Dariusz Wolski and a score from the duo of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. As for the rest of the ensemble cast, it includes Emory Cohen, RJ Cyler, Griffin Dunne, Topher Grace, Anthony Michael Hall, John Magaro, Will Poulter, Alan Ruck, Lakeith Stanfield, Josh Stewart, Tilda Swinton, Meg Tilly, and more.

Honestly, I didn’t like this movie one bit. Admittedly, Pitt is giving such a strange performance, it’s hard not like him here. Still, he’s left adrift in a flick that has absolutely no consistency. Tonally, it’s all over the place. There’s also no real sense of what it wants to accomplish. Yes, it seeks to satirize the military and the bureaucracy contained within, but it never hones in on the target. Too often, it just meanders. Furthermore, there’s really no plot to speak of. On top of that, different characters seem to be out of different genres. It all ends up being a mess. War Machine runs two hours, but it feels like a three hour film, and not in a good way either. What a shame. Somehow this became one of my least favorite works of the year so far.

Here now are what I previously put forward as Pitt’s ten best performances to date, now with a few additions and changes:

10. Se7en
9. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
8. Inglourious Basterds
7. The Tree of Life
6. Burn After Reading
5. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
4. Killing Them Softly
3. Moneyball
2. Twelve Monkeys
1. Fight Club

Honorable Mentions: Babel, Fury, Snatch, True Romance, and War Machine

Come Friday, audiences can see Pitt’s latest star vehicle in multiple forms, which is always a plus. Of course, ideally you’ll opt to watch War Machine (if you bother to see it) in theaters, but it will also be up on Netflix as a fallback option as well. Pitt fans will likely give it a chance, while on the streaming service many will just stumble upon it for whatever reason. Despite being one of the bigger disappointments of the year so far in my eyes, some might love it. Reviews have been divisive so far, to say the least, so make of that what you will. Perhaps give it a shot and see what you think…

Be sure to check out War Machine, in select theaters and streaming on Netflix this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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