War Machine is a surprisingly satisfying Frankenstein’s monster of laugh-out-loud satire & sobering drama.
“God damn it, Pete. Why are you fat?”
A tonal-disaster-in-the-making that becomes even more audacious when you consider its politically-charged subject matter. War Machine navigates multiple potential Pitt-falls to come together as a surprisingly satisfying Frankenstein’s monster of laugh-out-loud satire and sobering drama. David Michôd utilises a fantastic ensemble to carry home some tricky material. Brad Pitt hams it up superbly (evoking his crowd-pleasing turns in Burn After Reading & Inglorious Basterds) but leaves a little room for pathos towards the end. He’s surrounded by a gaggle of supporting talents – each character feels so easy to watch even if most aren’t traditionally likeable. There are strong turns from Will Poulter, RJ Cyler, Anthony Michael Hall and Tilda Swinton, while LaKeith Stanfield threatens to steal the entire film as he becomes the centrepiece of an enthralling action sequence.
The politics aren’t subtle (nor do they need to be), but the dramatic strokes do creep up on you (veiled by all the tongue-in-cheek self parody and physical humour). Sure it’s jarring, but that weird juxtaposition between the comedic and the dramatic works to its advantage. One moment you’re laughing at Pitt’s strange squat/jog hybrid and the next you’re faced with the damning reality of what McMahon’s egotistical crusade in Afghanistan actually amounts to: little more than pain. This tonal mish-mash worked for me in much the same way The Big Short did a few years back (even if the execution isn’t quite as impressive). I get the impression I’m in the minority on this one but I’m still chuckling at my “Pitt-falls” pun so what do I really know about comedy?
“Pitt-falls”! I’m chortling!