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: Power Rangers

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the review of Power Rangers. I should probably start with a disclaimer: before going to see the new film, I had no prior knowledge of the property. But, fun fact, I recently did find a photo of myself as a 3 year wearing a Power Rangers T-shirt. My mom got it for me without even knowing what it was.

Generally, I wasn’t really excited about this movie and didn’t have any expectations. I wouldn’t have even watched it but, since I like superhero films and I’m okay with YA pictures, I decide to give Power Rangers a fair chance. And, I was actually pleasantly surprised and quite entertained by the movie.

IMDb summary: A group of high-school kids, who are infused with unique superpowers, harness their abilities in order to save the world.

Writing 

The film’s screenplay was written by John Gatins (who also co-wrote the recent Kong: Skull Island) but Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Michele Mulroney, and Kieran Mulroney all contributed to the story. The script was based on both Saban’s early 90s Power Rangers and their original version – Super Sentai by Toei Company. The movie’s narrative wasn’t the most inventive and original but it was done in a way that was still pretty entertaining. Nevertheless, those super convenient story turns, plot-holes (oh, so you know how to fight now?) and a cliche big monster at the end still annoyed me. That Krispy Kreme marketing, though –  that was something else.

As usual, the viewer got to spend more time with the characters instead of just watching the endless action. Usually, YA films crumble when it comes to the characters, but this new team was quite likable and I actually cared for them. Granted, some characters were more developed than others, though that always happens. The diversity aspect of the film was pretty good too. I thought that the scriptwriters did a really good job representing an autistic teenager, but I wish they would have explored the LGBTQ+ aspect of one of the other characters more. I also wanted to see more background of the Asian character: while African Americans are slowly but surely becoming fully formed characters in mainstream movies, Asian actors and characters are usually still just there for financial rather than creative reasons.

The interactions between the teenagers were also pretty good, though also maybe a bit too exaggerated. Then again, young people are known for exaggerating everything. The camaraderie within the group also sorta worked. I loved the sequence where the kids were just having fun with their powers as well as the camping scene.

Although the plot itself was a bit cliche, it still had some neat message relating to coming of age and friendship. I, personally, really liked the fact that they written in a character who realizes that they are a terrible person and need to change – basically, I appreciated the how NOT to grow up into an awful individual aspect in one of the character’s story.

Directing 

Project Almanac’s Dean Israelite directed Power Rangers. I feel that his previous film was his audition tape for this movie, cause Project Almanac and Power Rangers were fairly similar. I mostly liked what he did with the picture. The action was solid, while the CGI was either decent or good. The handheld shots were a nice touch and reminded me of the found footage style of Project Almanac. Some other camera work was a bit weird, like those four full 360 shots at the beginning of the movie in the car. They felt really disorientating. The training montage was typical but fun too. The soundtrack was pretty neat as well.

Power Rangers also has a mid-credits scene which teased the potential arrival of the Green Ranger in the film’s sequel. However, I’m not entirely sure whether the movie will get a sequel cause I can’t see it earning a lot of money. I know that the filmmakers said that they have ideas for 5-6 sequels, but that just seems to be wishful thinking.

Acting

The 5 Power Rangers were played by relative newcomers who are obviously hoping that this will be their big break. One could definitely see that they were trying to give their best performances possible. The cast consisted of Dacre Montgomery (will appear in season 2 of Stranger Thrings), Naomi Scott (has worked with the Disney Channel), RJ Cyler (known to indie fans because of his appearance in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), Becky G (singer – this is her first big screen role), and Ludi Lin (recently starred in a Chinese film Monster Hunt) as Red, Pink, Blue, Yellow and Black Rangers, respectively. Elizabeth Banks played the main villain of the film and was probably the most horrible aspect of the movie. She was just so over the top and cartoonish. Didn’t even look like she was trying to do anything legitimate with the role. I think she should better stick with directing. Bryan Cranston also had a small role. He was fine but I’m so tired of seeing him in these B-level films (Trumbo, Godzilla, The Infiltrator, Why him?) all the time. His career has gone downhill with the end of Breaking Bad and I’m not even entirely sure whether he can get any better roles anymore.

In short, Power Rangers is a fun dumb time at the movies, although, the film is not as cheesy as the trailers wiould lead you to believe. I didn’t expect much and was pleasantly surprised.

Rate: 3,2/5

Trailer: Power Rangers trailer

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