Movie review: War Machine

Movie reviews

Hi!

As the counterprogramming to Pirates 5 and Baywatch (review coming in a few weeks cause international release schedules), Netflix released its newest original picture – War Machine. Since I’m not seeing Wonder Woman till Monday, I decided to make War Machine my movie of the weekend. I have already reviewed a Netflix film before and given you my general thoughts on Netflix’s attempt to break into the movie business. Weirdly, that picture was also a war drama – Sand Castle. I didn’t enjoy it much but I’m still hopeful about War Machine.

IMDb summary: A successful, charismatic four-star general, Glenn McMahon, leaps in like a rock star to command NATO forces in Afghanistan, only to be taken down by a journalist’s no-holds-barred exposé

Writing 

War Machine was written by the director of the film David Michôd, based on the non-fiction book The Operators by Michael Hastings. I quite enjoyed a variety of aspects of the writing for this film. To begin with, I loved the acknowledgment of the internationality of the war and the importance of the involvement of the other NATO nation’s as well as of the Afghans themselves.

I also was intrigued by the satirical air of the movie. It was so refhreshing to see a serious issue, like war, being examined with a level of irony, especially nowadays, when everybody gets offended by everything. More importantly, the satirical approach was so suitable for the topic of war because of the inherent hopelessness and even stupidity within it. The lack of final resolution to the narrative was also very appropriate as there isn’t actually a final solution to the war(s) in the Middle East.

In addition to the movie being bold in its choice of tone, it was also very daring in its message. That message sounded simple and yet it is so hard for a lot of Western nations to comprehend: ‘you cannot build a nation at gunpoint’ and ‘don’t invade a country you want to make friends with’.

War Machine was also unique in that it did not focus on the physical fighting of the war but rather looked at the paperwork, the planning, and the advertising side of it. I also loved how the team behind the general was spotlighted – I never did think how much is happening behind the scenes or behind the leader. Moreover, the divide between the military and the polity and all the miscommunication that was occuring was fascinating to see.

The writing for the main character (who is based on a real person) was also really good. I loved how idealistic he was – a sort of guy who makes you believe that there is good in the world. And yet, there were still layers to his idealism and I liked the fact that the movie questioned his motives. Were they trully as altruistic as they seemed? The conclusion to the narrative was also complex. I felt that, even though the article, written by the Rolling Stones journalist (who acted as the movie’s version of the real life author, who wrote the book the script was based on), destroyed the General’s career, this film was quite respectuful of it and him. Ultimately, he was painted in a good light, so to say.

Lastly, to end this long passage on the writing, let’s critique one aspect of the screenplay which was lacking – the structure of the narrative and the way it was presented. Of course, I am talking about narration. I do understand that the narration in this film could be sort of justified by saying that it’s the author/the journalist who is telling a story (and that actor did narrate the whole thing). However, the narration is such a cheap story device. Yes, it makes the plot very clear and is easy to understand. But it also makes it boring. I really wish the story could have been conveyed more organically and cinematically rather than just being spelled out for the viewers verbally.

Directing

David Michôd, a director of shorts and documentaries, helmed War Machine and did a good job. The movie was well-paced and the comedic/satirical atmosphere – well handled. The film did not have a lot of sequences of fighting and they weren’t missed – the dialogue and the character interactions were engaging enough. Having said that, the third act’s action sequence was well-crafted and suspenseful. Another sequence which I really liked was the conference in Germany and the stand-off between the German politician and the General. I also loved the ending shot of the film and how it represented the idea of hopelessness and the closed-loop of war. Same place, same job, different people. Doesn’t really matter who, though.

Acting

Brad Pitt (The Big Short, Allied, By The Sea) delivered career-defining performance as General Glen McMahon. The best I have seen from him in years. The performance was so complex, involving all the parts of the body and the face (especially, the eyebrows and the eyes). Also, he did some amazing voice modification for the role – the play with the accent and intonations was spectacular. I also loved how he delivered a comedic performance without being disrespectful. He should definitely get at least a Golden Globe nomination. Pitt also served as a producer – he does that a lot nowadays. He also produces films he does not star in.

The aforementioned team behind the General consisted of a bunch of actors of varying caliber, including Anthony Hayes, Emory Cohen, RJ Cyler, Daniel Betts, and Topher Grace. They all were good and their chemistry and comradeship seemed believable.

The journalist, who was inspired by the real-life writer, who wrote the book the script was based on, was played by Scoot McNairy. He also narrated the whole movie. Will Poulter and Keith Stanfield played two soldiers ‘on the ground’ who actually did the fighting. Stanfield’s character’s confusion about the war was an interesting aspect. I wish it were explored more.

Tilda Swinton also appeared in a single scene as a German politician. While I can’t comment on her German accent, I thought that she was absolutely amazing in the 5 min she was on screen.  Ben Kingsley also had a small role in the film – a quite typical one for him – that of a leader/person from an Eastern country.

In short, War Machine worked well as a biographical drama and as a war film. More importantly, the commentary provided was not only thought-provoking but presented in an entertaining way.

Rate: 3.7/5

Trailer: War Machine trailer

WarMachine_UK-439x650

Advertisements

Movie review: The Walk

Movie reviews

Hello!

Sorry for the flood of movie reviews on my blog these past few days, but I promise you will get a break after this review. For now, let’s review The Walk – a film about walking on a high wire a few hundred meters in the air. To me, this seems like a ludicrous idea, since I easily trip and fall while walking on a solid ground.

IMDb summary: In 1974, high-wire artist Philippe Petit recruits a team of people to help him realize his dream: to walk the immense void between the World Trade Center towers.

Directing

The reason why I want to start this review with the director – Robert Zemeckis – is because he is the reason that I went to see this film. As you may know, my country of origin is Lithuania (I’ve moved to the UK a few months ago) and Zemeckis has Lithuanian roots, so I felt obliged to support my fellow Lithuanian or half Lithuanian. Moreover, he is a pioneer of visual effects and has made a lot of amazing films including Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump, and Cast Away. However, I do not believe that The Walk is his best film or even close to this.

I have mixed feelings regarding this movie. On one hand, some CGI effects looked really fake (the towers at the beginning and the painfully obvious green screen during the exposition inserts – I wonder how did these scenes looked on IMAX) while other sequences were breathtaking (the actual walk or more accurately the walks). The ending sequence with an imaginary wire and the NY skyline dissolving into the black was my favorite shot. The black and white opening with some colorful details was an interesting choice as well. I just wish that this movie was edited more neatly so that beginning and ending would have had a bit more coherence.

Story

The Walk’s screenplay was based on real life events from 1974 when the real life Philippe Petit performed his dangerous and illegal stunt. Zemeckis himself, with the help of Christopher Browne, wrote the script, which could have benefited from the revision (the same with the visuals). Film’s story was really unfocused during the first half of the film and did not engage the viewer fully. It felt both rushed (characters did not receive any development) and the way too slow (lots of time passed with nothing really happening). There was no indication of the passage of time, so the audience couldn’t really tell how much time has passed between scenes – a day or a year? However, as much as I critic this film, I have to admit that the motion picture really shined during the second half when it found its focus: the preparation for walk sequence was even more interesting than the actual walk(s) scene because it had amazing suspense, which later carried on to the actual performance.

Though, while the 2nd part of the film was very enjoyable, some questionable choices were taking me out of the film throughout the whole run-time. For example, the exposition on top of the Statue of Liberty and the breaking of the 4th wall seemed like unnecessary and distracting additions to the film. Moreover, while I loved the European flavor of the film, their explanation of why the characters should speak English instead of French seemed quite stupid to me. Also, the fact that the character of Petit only did a few walks and trained for a bit and was prepared for the walk between the World Trade Center Towers was a bit unbelievable. However, according to google, World Trade Center Walk was only the 4th walk that Petit did IRL, so the movie stuck to the reality in that case. Lastly, while this film was based on real life events and might have wanted to stay as truthful to the real story as possible, some of the details of the plot were quite weird. For instance, why would you allow a guy who has a fear of heights on your team if you are planning to walk on a wire hundreds of meters in the air? It just seemed to be an unnecessary obstacle for Petit’s purpose and the comedic relief that it added was not worth it.

Acting

  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Philippe Petit was the star of this film. I have always been on the fence when it comes to Gordon-Levitt as an actor and I still remain on the fence. He has done some great films but he never really stuck out to me in any of them. I also had quite a lot of issues with his character in this film. I don’t know whether real-life Petit is like this, but the film’s Petit seemed like a very selfish and arrogant man (thief and troublemaker) and just and unlikable character who the viewer had to force himself/herself to like and root for. Furthermore, the way he held himself above the circus artists was not a nice thing to do. Also, why couldn’t they just cast a French actor to play this role? Levitt looks nothing like real life Petit, so it was definitely not the reason why he got the part. Also, I think they CGI-ied his face a bit but that just made it look weird and fake. However, the fakest thing of it all was the Gordon-Levitt’s accent, which took some time to get used to. Lastly, I would be interested to know, how much of the actual wire walking did Gordon-Levitt do and who was his stunt man.
  • Ben Kingsley as Papa Rudy and Charlotte Le Bon as Annie Allix were the two supporting characters, which received some development and I wish we could have spent more time with them since they seemed to be interesting. What mind boggles me the most, is the fact that they managed to cast a French actress in a lead female role but not the male one. Why? Speaking about Kingsley, I mostly remember him as Marvel’s The Mandarin, though he has done some better films than Iron Man 3. The last Le Bon’s film, which I’ve watched, was The Hundred-Foot Journey – I quite liked it. Plus, I have found out that she voiced Joy in the French version of Inside Out.
  • Clément Sibomy, James Badge Dale, César Domboy, Ben Schwartz, Benedict Samuel, and Steve Valentine also had supporting roles in the film. Sadly, they looked like really one-dimensional caricatures of real life people.

To sum up, The Walk was an okay film and so far – my least favorite film of the fall and the least likely candidate for any awards. The plot was messy, the visuals could have been neater and the choices for the actors and their characters – questionable. However, the suspense of the Walk(s) and the CGI of the final sequence made up for the previous shortcomings at least a bit.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: The Walk trailer

walk_ver2_xlg