Net Picks: War Machine

Net Picks is your weekly digest of some of the best movies currently playing on Netflix. With Netflix Originals now giving directors more finance, and more freedom to create the stories they want. This area is the fastest emerging market in film and offers a real alternative to film-making traditions. We’ll be looking each week at films that are either solely viewable on Netflix, and occasionally films that had limited cinema releases and are worth catching online.


2017 – USA

Director: David Michôd

Starring: Brad Pitt, Anthony Hayes, John Magoro, Ben Kingsley

Words: Josh Senior


David Michôd along with his compatriot Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James, Killing Them Softly) is currently flying the flag for Australian film-makers in Hollywood. From the success of his first two features; the brooding family crime saga Animal Kingdom, and the dystopian revenge thriller The Rover, Michôd was given the keys to the Netflix war-chest and Brad Pitt as his lead star to come up with something to continue this Antipodean era of cinematic fruition. 

War Machine is the product of this happy alliance, an at times oddball whirlwind tour of life during the Afghanistan war from the vantage point of fictional General Glenn McMahon (Pitt).
Loosely based upon American General Stanley McChrystal, the film follows McMahon and his team of followers, after he is given the reigns of American operations in the Afghan conflict. Tasked with “winning the war”, he is conflicted by his will to defeat his enemy and appease the will of the American Government who want to scale back from the war and take the troops home.

Pitt plays McMahon in typical fashion, his performances in Inglourious Basterds and Fury make him perfect for the job. He manages to deliver a great dose of dry humour in this restrained and at times rather mellow performance.
The film itself is rather bizarre and flits from one issue to the next without pause or concern for its viewers understanding. It merits and deserves repeated viewings. What it does well in however, is conveying an image of war that we don’t often see. The ‘Post Iraq/ Afghan War Movie’ genre has so far concerned itself with “guns in the desert” flicks like The Hurt Locker, Green Zone etc. This film is very much a behind the scenes look at a War-time operation and the emotions and decisions that need to be made in a varying degree of situations. It is less concerned with bullets than it is with political maneuvering and budget management.

It does attempt to show war neither as a negative or a positive, merely a necessity of life. It revels in the mundane nature of it all. The fact that it’s referenced directly as a machine is pertinent.

The purpose of McMahon’s whole life (as is pointed out to him by a journalist) has built towards this moment, he has been trained, groomed and conditioned for war, and as his influence begins to wain he begins to question his relevance in the conflict, his place in the machine.
It feels very much like a hipster version of Full Metal Jacket, updated and re-tooled for the 21st Century. A sprawl of madness that lurches from comedy to tragedy at the flip of a coin. Overall, a long and at times tricky watch, but one that is certainly worth sticking out to the end.

Stream it on Netflix now