Sunday, June 18, 2017

Movie review - "War Machine" (2017) **1/2

Patchily impressive account of the war in Afghanistan with Brad Pitt. There's a lot of narration - I mean a lot of narration that mostly describes stuff that could and maybe should have been dramatised. It also describes things that we go on to see without enriching it somehow.

I wanted this to be better than it was because I'd love a smart look at American strategy in Afghanistan and the modern day military. And occasionally this is first rate - Anthony Michael Hall is superb as a bug eyed officer; there's an unexpectedly touching depiction of the marriage between Pitt and his wife, played by Meg you-haven't-seen-me-in-ages Tilly; it actually takes a critical look at Obama's foreign policy without being a moronic Fox News take; raises some interesting issues (could it have worked defending a smaller perimeter?).

But it never quite digs in beneath the surface. Brad Pitt acts his heart out, puts on the voice, does the jog - but it's still Brad in a funny wig. We never really understand why his character does what he does - or the others. I kept expecting Topher Grace and Hall in particular to do something spectacular but they never do.

The film felt like it was made by a smart uni student - someone who'd read a couple of books on the subject, but who didn't really understand war or the men who wage it. For instance, the journalist (who I feel the film seems to empathise with more than anyone else, even though he doesn't appear until well into the running time and doesn't do much except hang around and pass judgement via voice over), confidentially asserts that counter insurgency never works, overlooking the Indonesias in West Irian Jaya, the British in Oman and Malaysia and Borneo, the Chinese in Tibet etc. There's no great insight on the Allies or the locals either.

There's a great movie in here struggling to get out. Maybe if Michod had a co writer.

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