Netflix's new motion picture War Machine dropped on the streaming service as of May 26th. And, while anticipation was high for an exclusive piece of content, the reviews have not been so glowing in the immediate aftermath. The satirical war installment that is showcased more as a black comedy packs a punch on the casting front. With Brad Pitt joined by Ben Kingsley, Tilda Swinton, RJ Cyler, John Magaro, Topher Grace and even a special cameo by Russell Crowe.
Yet it fails to build on the book it is inspired by, loosely chronicling the Michael Hastings paperback The Operators that examined the role of disgraced US Army General Stanley McChrystal in the Afghanistan War. Sitting on a modest Rotten Tomatoes fresh rating of 57%, this is what the critics had to say.
Slow and Lacking: A Film With More Promise Than Punch
The New York Times believes the introduction of one too many subplots halted the early momentum for the movie.
"Bluff and bowlegged, with a neat side part in his hair and a spine as straight as a schooner’s mast, Brad Pitt strides into War Machine in a gust of masculine self-assurance... At its best, War Machine crackles with irreverent wit, even if American political craziness circa 2009 looks tame compared with the 2017 version. It takes a while to get going, though. A raft of secondary characters is introduced via voice-over, but most of them fade into the desert-camo background."
With a 2/5 star review, Empire argues that director David Michôd did not make the most of the talent at his disposal.
"The set-up is clearly there, but Michôd squanders it with a film that’s never sure what it wants to be. Is it a broad comedy, as Pitt’s pantomime performance suggests? Or is it striving to be a biting satire as its best moments (including an on-point scene about poppy cultivation) implies? Whatever the intention, the script doesn’t have enough big laughs or intelligence for either to truly succeed."
CNN say it was a smart ploy to avoid a direct portrayal of McChrystal. But they did not capitalize on that creative freedom.
"The fictionalized aspect of what is now 'inspired by' the book has provided writer-director David Michôd more latitude to embellish events, without fear of litigation. But the satirical components feel culled from a very old playbook, filled as it is with tired insights about the fruitlessness of seeking to export democracy."
BP Makes The Best From A Limited Script and Character
Embracing some of his characteristics from roles in Inglorious Basterds and Fury, IGN are of the opinion that the central star holds the feature together with an engaging, if not an altogether faultless performance.
"Brad Pitt remains an actor worth watching," they write. "He can be compelling and enjoyable even when he finds himself playing a disappointing character in a lackluster movie, and this is precisely what occurs in Michôd's War Machine... After a while, rather than just being funny (in a dark way), it's questionable why one should sit through the whole thing. The only answer to that is that even if Pitt doesn't add depth to this character, he remains exceptionally enjoyable playing surface laughs (even if they aren't always humorous)."
For THR, there are more positives than negatives for potential streamers.
"The film's scabrous, sometimes-arch, other times spot-on critique ultimately comes together in an effective finale that retroactively puts a better light on the entire film than might have seemed possible during some of the earlier, rougher moments. There's also constant pleasure to be taken from the way the film was made; it's rough and bold, great to look at (cinematographer Dariusz Wolski is in top form) and enhanced by a varied, resourcefully thought-out soundtrack."