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

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Movie review: The Judge

Movie reviews

Hi!

As you have probably noticed, I go to a cinema at least once a week. This Thursday, I watched The Judge – comedy-drama by the director David Dobkin.  I wasn’t familiar with his work, probably because he is not that famous.  He has directed a couple of comedies, TV shows and produced many more of them. The judge is his baby – he did everything himself – written, produced and directed.

IMDb summary: Big city lawyer Hank Palmer returns to his childhood home where his father, the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his estranged family.

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Story

I really enjoyed the story and all the different aspects of it. I loved the whole coming home from a big city thing – I have always imagined myself moving from my own small native country to live in the US and coming back for a short visit. The law side of the movie also appealed to me because last year I did a semester of Law AP class at my local college, so I am familiar with the basic structures and different kinds of laws. The family drama was also close to my heart because I have always had problems finding a connection with my mom. Cancer aspect was also understandable because a few years back my grandma died from stage 4 lungs and bones cancer. And of course, love and relationships are a universal language which is understood by all. All the complex plot-lines, problems from the past and current events really mixed well and were not too much for me. My favorite scene was the final courtroom scene – the trial. That talk between The Judge and Hank  was super powerful and really good.

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Acting

Robert Downey Jr. was perfect in his role. Previously, I have seen him in big Marvel movies and in Sherlock Holmes franchise as well as this year’s Chef by Jon Favreau (review). He is truly a remarkable actor and this weekend I am definitely going to watch Chaplin (Academy Awards nomination for the lead role), The Soloist, Love&Distrust and Due Date. I love the fact that Robert Downey Jr.’s character could joke around one minute and be tearing up the next. What is more, his character Hank from this movie reminded me a bit of Sherlock Holmes with all that reading of a person stuff: both these characters paid attention to details and acquired a lot of knowledge without even engaging in a conversation. I guess that’s a part of their job: one is a lawyer while other is the private detective.

P.S. Robert Downey Jr. is almost 50 years old and he still looks like a 30-35-year-old.  Does anyone want a youth potion?

Robert Duvall was also really good in his role as The Judge. I hated him for being such an awful father but could sympathize with him as well for trying to make up for his mistakes. Other actors have been upstaged by Hank and Judge Palmer and I don’t really remember them. One of my most beloved TV actress’s from childhood – Leighton Meester – was also in this film as Carla – maybe / maybe-not Hank’s daughter. She had a small role but it was nice to see her after quite a long time.

All in all, I enjoyed the film, could relate to the story and adored the performance of the main duo – father and son. The movie premiered a month ago at TIFF – possibly this could mean that the movie is willing to get an Academy Award or at least Golden Globe nomination; however, I don’t really believe that will happen because the reviews from critics have been only mediocre.

Rate: 4.5/5. If the movie had been shorter by half an hour I would have given it a full 5.

Trailer: The Judge trailer

The_Judge_2014_film_poster Photos: Getty Images