Just like the major Hollywood studios it seeks to challenge, Netflix is finding out that large budgets and A-list talent don’t always necessarily equate to successful filmmaking. Netflix released the satirical anti-war film War Machine starring Brad Pitt over the weekend, and critics have so far been less than impressed.
War Machine features Pitt playing General Glen McMahon, a four-star general who is sent to command the struggling NATO forces in war-torn Afghanistan. Throughout the film, Pitt’s McMahon has to cope with low troop morale, anti-American sentiment among the local population, and bloodthirsty journalists seeking to expose the dark, shady underbelly of the military industrial complex in Afghanistan. War Machine is written and directed by David Michod and co-stars some serious Hollywood talent with the likes of Anthony Michael-Hall, Ben Kingsley, and Tilda Swinton.
Unfortunately, reviews of War Machine have not been positive. The Atlantic writes that the film is “caught between two poles, looking to humanize and contextualize McMahon’s rise and fall while clearly rooting for him to fail from the outset […] War Machine is a failure, but could perhaps have been a great film if it had tried a little harder to pick a tone.” CNET, similarly, opines that while War Machine boasts some “neat satirical touches,” the film “lacks the sharp, cutting edge of good satire and it’s missing details that might teach you something about war.” Pitt’s performance, in particular, has been described as cartoonish and unbelievable compared to some of his other military roles in Fury or Inglorious Basterds.
Given that Netflix reportedly spent $60 million on the film, those negative reviews sure have to sting. At least Netflix can fall back on the mostly positive reviews of their other two recent original films screened at Cannes, Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories, to help relieve the disappointment over War Machine. Better luck next time.