War Machine (film)
|Directed by||David Michôd|
|Written by||David Michôd|
|Based on||The Operators|
by Michael Hastings
|Edited by||Peter Sciberras|
War Machine is a 2017 war film written and directed by David Michôd and starring Brad Pitt, Anthony Michael Hall, Anthony Hayes, Topher Grace, Will Poulter, Tilda Swinton, and Ben Kingsley. Based on the nonfiction book The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan by Michael Hastings, it is a fictionalized version of the events in the book based on United States Army General Stanley McChrystal.
The film was released on Netflix on May 26, 2017.
In the summer of 2009, four-star General Glen McMahon, having won renown for his effective leadership in Iraq, is sent to Afghanistan to prepare an assessment so that the government can end the ongoing war. He is given wide latitude to write it, on the sole condition that he not request more troops. McMahon and his staff, particularly his right hand man Major General Greg Pulver, are united in their belief that the war can be won, and decide to recommend that President Obama authorize a surge of 40,000 additional troops to secure Helmand province in order to stabilize the country. However, the Secretary of State informs McMahon that, because he requested more troops, and such a surge is incompatible with elections, McMahon's report will not be reviewed until after Afghanistan's presidential election.
Captain Badi Basim, a member of the Afghan National Army, joins McMahon's staff as a "representative" of the Afghan people. He arrives, however, in civilian clothes as he would rather not wear his uniform, which he has in a bag. Meanwhile, McMahon is informed that, due to alleged irregularities in the counting of votes, a runoff election will have to be held, further delaying the review of the assessment. Fed up, McMahon secretly leaks the assessment to the Washington Post and organizes an interview with 60 Minutes, during which he reveals that, in the last 70 days, he has only been granted one meeting with President Obama. In response, the U.S. government announces that they will send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, and that all U.S. and coalition forces in the country will leave in 18 months. To gather the remaining 10,000 troops needed for his strategy to work, McMahon and his men head to Paris to negotiate with the other coalition nations.
In Paris, McMahon learns that the President is in Denmark and wishes to meet with him. The ambassador to Afghanistan warns McMahon that he needs to understand President Obama's position: if McMahon continues to anger the President, he will be fired for insubordination. The President, however, merely shakes McMahon's hand as he climbs aboard Air Force One, supposedly due to time constraints, and McMahon and his staff attend a dinner in McMahon's honor, accompanied by Rolling Stone writer Sean Cullen, who intends to write a feature story about his performance for an upcoming issue. The next day, during their wedding anniversary dinner, McMahon's wife Jeanie confronts him about how much time he's been spending fighting abroad instead of being with his family back home.
While en route to Berlin with McMahon's staff to continue negotiations, Cullen observes their behavior and concludes that they are arrogant, and seem to care little about the growing public perception that the war is costly and wasteful. At a conference to discuss his strategy, McMahon is confronted by a German official who is skeptical of his approach and suggests that McMahon's plans would only lead to more losses. Nevertheless, both the Germans and the French agree to furnish the troops needed for McMahon's planned offensive, codenamed "Operation Moshtarak", to begin, with Afghan President Hamid Karzai's approval.
The operation launches, but soon runs into trouble when several civilians are accidentally killed against McMahon's instructions. When he holds a public meeting to explain the incident, the crowd grows hostile and demands that McMahon and his troops leave.
Worse, McMahon learns that Cullen's article has been published, and paints a negative picture of him and his staff as openly speaking against the President and mishandling the war effort. Knowing that he will be fired for his actions, McMahon returns to Washington and later takes a job as a civilian consultant.
In the aftermath, Cullen ponders the consequences of his article, noting that he wished McMahon's fall would finally convince the government to stop invading foreign countries and end the war in Afghanistan. Instead, however, the government simply assigns a new general to replace McMahon.
- Brad Pitt as General Glen McMahon, a character based on General Stanley McChrystal. He is portrayed as an accomplished general with degrees from West Point and Yale University, brought in to bring a resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan.
- Anthony Hayes as Lieutenant Commander Pete Duckman, a Navy SEAL and member of McMahon's staff
- Emory Cohen as Corporal Willy Dunne, General McMahon's body man
- RJ Cyler as USAF Tech Sergeant Andy Moon, information technology support assistant
- Daniel Betts as USN Rear Admiral Simon Ball, McMahon's Senior Public Affairs Officer
- Topher Grace as Matt Little, a former lobbyist turned McMahon's civilian media adviser, based loosely on Duncan Boothby
- Anthony Michael Hall as Major General Greg Pulver, ISAF Director of Intelligence, loosely based on Lieutenant General Michael Flynn
- John Magaro as Colonel Cory Staggart, an Army Ranger and General McMahon's executive officer
- Aymen Hamdouchi as Captain Badi Basim, a scholarly Afghan National Army officer who becomes General McMahon's aide-de-camp
- Scoot McNairy as Sean Cullen, a cynical journalist for Rolling Stone who accompanies McMahon and his staff and acts as narrator throughout the film, loosely based on author Michael Hastings
- Meg Tilly as Jeanie McMahon, Glen McMahon's wife
- Sian Thomas as United States Secretary of State Edith May, based on Hillary Rodham Clinton
- Alan Ruck as Lieutenant General Pat McKinnon, United States Ambassador to Afghanistan, loosely based on Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry
- Nicholas Jones as Dick Waddle, loosely based on Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke
- Griffin Dunne as Ray Canucci, a United States Department of State senior official
- Ben Kingsley as President Hamid Karzai
- Reggie Brown as President Barack Obama
- Tilda Swinton as a German politician
- Will Poulter as Sergeant Ricky Ortega, a Marine Corps infantry squad leader
- Lakeith Stanfield as Corporal Billy Cole, a disillusioned Marine and member of Ortega's squad.
- Josh Stewart as Captain Dick North, a Marine Corps officer
Other cast members
- Rufus Wright as British Army Lieutenant Colonel Frank Groom
- Georgina Rylance as Lydia Cunningham, 60 Minutes journalist
- Russell Crowe as General Bob White (uncredited), General Glen McMahon's replacement, similar to David Petraeus
On April 27, 2012, it was announced that New Regency and Plan B Entertainment had acquired the film adaptation rights to the 2011 best seller non-fiction book The Operators by Michael Hastings. On April 14, 2014, David Michôd was hired to write and direct the film based on the war in Afghanistan. Brad Pitt was attached to star as General Stanley McChrystal and produce the film along with his Plan B partners Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, while the film would be financed by New Regency and RatPac Entertainment.
On June 8, 2015, Netflix acquired the distribution rights to the film which was re-titled War Machine, while Ian Bryce also came on board to produce the film along with others. On June 17, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that there had been a budget issue between New Regency and RatPac with producers of Plan B, and thus Netflix had stepped in to buy the distribution rights for $60 million.
On August 4, 2015, Emory Cohen was cast in the film to play a member of Gen. McChrystal's staff. On August 10, 2015, Topher Grace joined the film to play Gen. Stanley McChrystal's civilian press adviser. On August 11, 2015, John Magaro signed on to play Cory Burger, a special ops soldier and close advisor to General McMahon. On August 14, 2015, Scoot McNairy joined the cast of the film. On August 19, 2015, Anthony Michael Hall was added to the cast to play General Hank Pulver, loosely based on General Mike Flynn. On August 20, 2015, Keith Stanfield signed on to the film. The same day, Will Poulter also joined the cast for an unspecified role. On August 25, Anthony Hayes joined the film. On October 23, 2015, TheWrap revealed that RJ Cyler had also joined the film.
Principal photography on the film began in mid-October 2015 in London. Later on October 19, filming began in Abu Dhabi; the city was transformed into Kabul, streets into a military fortress, an old building as an American Embassy in Kabul, and a street as a Palestinian border crossing. Filming also took place at the Abu Dhabi International Airport in November. In mid-November 2015, while final scenes were being shot, actors were spotted filming in Ras al-Khaimah and the city's old neighborhood was transformed into Pakistani villages and a military base-camp.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 48% based on 91 reviews, and an average rating of 5.64/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "War Machine's uneven execution keeps its fact-based story from cleanly hitting its targets, but those flaws are frequently offset by sharp wit and solid acting." On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating, the film has a 56 out of 100 score, based on 30 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
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