WAR MACHINE—–Empire’s never learn. Beyond projecting overwhelming weaponry and colossal ego upon their chosen prey, they never seem to get that the backyards they wish to play house in are already occupied by owners who don’t want them there. Few neighborhoods on our orb have been as hospitable to individuals and hostile to invaders as Afghanistan. Ask Russia. England. Ask Alexander the Great. Writing for “Rolling Stone” back in 2010, journalist Michael Hastings asked American General Stanley McChrystal. The frank general’s loose lips sank his career ship. Hastings wrote the bestseller “The Operators” two years later, and in 2017 this $60,000,000 production debuted via Netflix, with Brad Pitt playing a thinly veiled version (‘Gen. Glen McMahon’) of the ballsy, iconoclastic, duty-serious officer. The sanity-free US-led war for/in Afghanistan bleeds on…*
“Ah, America. You beacon of composure and proportionate response, you bringer of calm and goodness to the world… What do you do when the war you’re fighting just can’t possibly be won in any meaningful sense? Well, obviously, you sack the guy not winning it and you bring in some other guy. In 2009, that war was Afghanistan, and that other guy… was Glen.”
Director David Michôd wrote the sharp-edged script off Hasting’s work and the telling is fittingly satirical, as the whole sad slog is such a total cluster—k: a decade-and-a-half waste that would be fall-down hilarious if actual people weren’t being killed as a result. Pitt plays it big and broad, but sincere and consistent, with macho body-language geekiness a mixture of swagger and discomfort that’s oddly charming and Real-Man compelling: I never get tired of watching one of the most likable and consistently underrated leading men of the day. There are superb supporting jobs from Anthony Michael Hall, never better, chewing it up with fervor (based on Gen. Michael Flynn) and Meg Tilly as the beleaguered McMahon’s loyal, career-sidelined wife, whose suffering in silence is beautifully sketched as a quiet profile in pain. Ben Kingsley gets in rich moments as our frazzled but fatalistic friend Hamid Karzai—the movie doesn’t even bother to disguise his name, such is the accepted corruption we’ve all come to expect from our ‘allies’. Tilda Swinton has a pointed cameo, and one perfect-wrap casting coup and final guffaw shows up like a cherry at the bittersweet end (no spoiler, just see it).
“Men are imperfect creatures. Left to their own devices all they really wanna do is play with their dicks and eat chicken.” 122 minutes, with Topher Grace, Scoot McNairy, Anthony Hayes, John Magaro, Griffin Dunne, Will Poulter, Alan Ruck.
* McChrystal teaches at Yale and continues in lucrative private life to offer some sensible opinions on a variety of issues. In the 3 years and 8 months that followed Pearl Harbor, the United States pulverized the once-invincible Japanese, collapsed Italy, buoyed England, supplied Russia, liberated France and bombed the shit out of Germany—all while putting everyone to work and making Abbott & Costello comedies and Technicolor musicals. Yet, in fifteen years in Afghanistan, we can’t seem to squash a few guys who have no air force, navy or musical-comedy stars—and heroin production is at an all-time high. Could it be?…nah…that would be…like.. beyond stupid…practically criminal….Guess we just need more men. Maybe a brand new battlefield? Gee…where, oh where could we find one….? Colonel, get me a fresh ‘expert’, a new map and a clean dipstick.