David Muchod’s political drama “War Machine”, based on the book by Michael Hastings, looks at the ethics of U.S. military policy and of career military officers. Most of it takes place indoors on base in Afghanistan (filmed in Abu Dhabi), or on international “will raising” trips to Berlin and Paris. Toward the end, it explodes into a brutal, personal battlefield scene in a village, worthy of being in “American Sniper”. Otherwise, it’s pure art.
Brad Pitt plays the lifer officer Gen. Glen McMahon, who has been tasked, around 2009, by “Obama’s War” (as Bob Woodward had called it on an NBC documentary) into pacifying and winning back some villages from the Taliban. Unlike his other movies (like “Babel”), this time he does not look or act like Brad Pitt, the role model. Pretty soon, the movie lunges into long discussions where show that a military career like McMahon’s, starting at West Point, needs to justify its own continuation by making up objectives. My summer in the Pentagon in 1968 after Army Basic at Fort Jackson, I used to hear this said; and the Pentagon brass probably didn’t like to hear this from the more privileged, sheltered and well-educated draftees (the “01E20” crowd). Maybe (besides security clearances for a latent homosexual, in the language of the time) that contributed to my own transfer to Fort Eustis.
McMahon spends a lot of time explaining “insurgency”. In one speech, he explains the math or the “group theory” where if you kill two of ten insurgents you suddenly have twenty. In one scene, a reporter in Germany quizzes him about all of this, whether it is indeed self-serving for his own career, Of course, “insurgency” had been a concept in Vietnam, during the time of my own service. There is also some discussion about how 9/11 probably changed military careers a lot more than it did normal life of Americans (although I could contest that idea). The film presents the idea that American occupation on its own may aggravate religious tensions.
McMahon also courts Hamid Karzai (Ben Kingsley), unconvincingly, about “nation building.” How self-serving. But think about what the same idea meant in Vietnam,
With Iraq, of course, it was Obama’s exist that left the power vacuum that allowed ISIS to overrun it, so it gets complicated.
The film comes to a head with the daylight patrol in the Afghan Village. I know someone (NG) deployed there now (really by Obama, not Trump) and I wondered if this is what he could face. It gets brutal. One soldier gets shot in the eye and is blinded. Another (Pico Alexander or Will Poulter) is saved by his steel pot. Then one more goes it alone.
Afghanistan picture (Wiki).
Berlin picture (Wiki). I was there in 1999.
Paris picture (Wiki), near site of 11/13/2015 attacks.
|Director, writer:||David Muchod, Michael Hastings|
|When and how viewed:||Netflix Instant Play, 2017/7/27|
|Companies:||Netflix, Plan B|
(Posted: Thursday, July 27, 2017 at 11:45 PM EDT)