War Machine (film)

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War Machine
War Machine (film).jpg
Film poster
Directed byDavid Michôd
Produced by
Written byDavid Michôd
Based onThe Operators
by Michael Hastings
Music by
CinematographyDariusz Wolski
Edited byPeter Sciberras
Distributed byNetflix
Release date
  • May 24, 2017 (2017-05-24) (High Street Phoenix)
  • May 26, 2017 (2017-05-26) (United States)
Running time
122 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$60 million[1]

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.[2]

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.[3][4] 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.


McMahon's Entourage

U.S. Diplomats


Combat Marines

Other cast members


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.[19] On April 14, 2014, David Michôd was hired to write and direct the film based on the war in Afghanistan.[6] 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.[6]

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.[20] 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.[1]

On August 4, 2015, Emory Cohen was cast in the film to play a member of Gen. McChrystal's staff.[9] On August 10, 2015, Topher Grace joined the film to play Gen. Stanley McChrystal's civilian press adviser.[11] On August 11, 2015, John Magaro signed on to play Cory Burger, a special ops soldier and close advisor to General McMahon.[13] On August 14, 2015, Scoot McNairy joined the cast of the film.[14] On August 19, 2015, Anthony Michael Hall was added to the cast to play General Hank Pulver, loosely based on General Mike Flynn.[12] On August 20, 2015, Keith Stanfield signed on to the film.[17] The same day, Will Poulter also joined the cast for an unspecified role.[16] On August 25, Anthony Hayes joined the film.[8] On October 23, 2015, TheWrap revealed that RJ Cyler had also joined the film.[10]


Principal photography on the film began in mid-October 2015 in London.[21][22] 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.[23][24] Filming also took place at the Abu Dhabi International Airport in November.[24] 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.[25]


The film was released on Netflix on May 26, 2017.[26]


Brad Pitt visited Mumbai to promote the film and attended a special screening at PVR High Street Phoenix on May 24, 2017.[27] He also met Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan to promote War Machine.

Critical response[edit]

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."[28] 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".[29]


  1. ^ a b McClintock, Pamela (June 17, 2015). "Whoa: Netflix Actually Paid $60M for Brad Pitt's Politically Charged Military Satire". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved October 22, 2015.
  2. ^ McGinley, Michael (May 3, 2017). "Brad Pitt Talks Divorce, Quitting Drinking, and Becoming a Better Man". GQ. Condé Nast. Retrieved May 6, 2017.
  3. ^ Grow, Kory (March 30, 2017). "See Brad Pitt Play Runaway General in 'War Machine' Trailer". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  4. ^ Crothers, Jennifer (March 31, 2017). "The trailer for Brad Pitt's Netflix film War Machine is here". The Daily Mirror. Mirror Group Newspapers. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  5. ^ Seemayer, Zack (January 31, 2016). "EXCLUSIVE: Brad Pitt Looks Like a Ken Doll on the Set of Upcoming Netflix Drama 'War Machine' — See the Pics!". Entertainment Tonight. CBS Television Distribution. Retrieved May 6, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c Fleming, Mike Jr. (April 14, 2014). "New Regency Taps Brad Pitt, David Michod To Tell Gen. Stanley McChrystal Afghan Story 'The Operators'". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved October 22, 2015.
  7. ^ Mancini, Vince (May 22, 2017). "Brad Pitt And David Michôd's 'War Machine' Is An Absurd, Tragicomic Home Run". Film Drunk. Uproxx. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  8. ^ a b Kroll, Justin (August 25, 2015). "'Animal Kingdom' Actor Anthony Hayes Joins 'War Machine' With Brad Pitt (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved October 22, 2015.
  9. ^ a b A. Lincoln, Ross (August 4, 2015). "Joey King Will Be 'Going In Style'; Emory Cohen Enlists In Netflix's 'War Machine'". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved August 21, 2015.
  10. ^ a b Sneider, Jeff (October 23, 2015). "'Power Rangers' Movie Adds 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' Star RJ Cyler as Blue Ranger". TheWrap. Retrieved November 17, 2015.
  11. ^ a b McNary, Dave (August 10, 2015). "Topher Grace Joins Brad Pitt In Netflix Black Comedy 'War Machine'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved August 11, 2015.
  12. ^ a b Busch, Anita (August 19, 2015). "Anthony Michael Hall Joins Brad Pitt In Netflix's 'War Machine'". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved August 20, 2015.
  13. ^ a b A. Lincoln, Ross (August 11, 2015). "John Magaro Joins 'War Machine'; Jason Fuchs Moves To 'La La Land'". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
  14. ^ a b Fleming, Mike Jr. (August 14, 2015). "Scoot McNairy Joins Brad Pitt In Netflix's 'War Machine'". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
  15. ^ Stolek, Jim (August 26, 2015). "Ben Kingsley teaches Patricia Clarkson how to drive in new dramedy". Toronto Sun. Postmedia Network. Retrieved May 6, 2017.
  16. ^ a b McNary, Dave (August 20, 2015). "Will Poulter Joins Brad Pitt in Netflix's 'War Machine'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved August 21, 2015.
  17. ^ a b Sneider, Jeff (August 20, 2015). "'Straight Outta Compton's Keith Stanfield Joins Brad Pitt's Netflix Movie 'War Machine' (Exclusive)". TheWrap. Retrieved August 21, 2015.
  18. ^ Taylor, Drew (May 26, 2017). "Director David Michôd on Why Netflix's 'War Machine' Could Never Be Made at a Studio". Moviefone. MoviePass. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
  19. ^ Abrams, Rachel (April 27, 2012). "New Regency, Plan B dial 'Operators'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved October 22, 2015.
  20. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (June 8, 2015). "Game Changer! Netflix Lands 'War Machine', Brad Pitt's Next Star Vehicle". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved August 11, 2015.
  21. ^ FOX-Leonard, Boudicca (October 17, 2015). "Brad Pitt looks GREY-t as silver fox on London set of new film War Machine". Daily Mirror. Mirror Group Newspapers. Retrieved October 22, 2015.
  22. ^ Walano, Rose (October 19, 2015). "Brad Pitt Is the Ultimate Silver Fox on the Set of War Machine (Move Over, Clooney!)". Us Weekly. American Media. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  23. ^ Sheridan, Wade (October 15, 2015). "Brad Pitt's Netflix original movie 'War Machine' to start production in Abu Dhabi". United Press International. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  24. ^ a b Arts Life (October 21, 2015). "Quiet Abu Dhabi street transforms into War Machine film set". The National. Retrieved October 22, 2015.
  25. ^ Arts Life (November 14, 2015). "RAK becomes celebrity zone as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie fly down to the emirate". The National. Retrieved November 17, 2015.
  26. ^ Trenholm, Richard (March 1, 2017). "Brad Pitt prepares for battle in Netflix's 'War Machine' trailer". CNET. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  27. ^ Panchal, Komal RJ (May 24, 2017). "Brad Pitt is in Mumbai to attend War Machine screening, to meet Shah Rukh Khan". The Indian Express. Retrieved May 25, 2017.
  28. ^ "War Machine (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  29. ^ "War Machine Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 15, 2017.

External links[edit]