Review: ‘War Machine’: Brad Pitt Has Met the Enemy. He Just Doesn’t Know It Yet.

Mr. Michôd’s satirical intentions call out for something like the rapid-fire cynicism of Armando Iannucci, creator of “Veep” and director of “In the Loop,” or the gonzo iconoclasm of David O. Russell’s “Three Kings.” But after a sluggish and chaotic start, “War Machine” finds its groove and becomes its own thing: a mordant, cleareyed critique of American war-making that is all the more devastating for being affectionately drawn.

McMahon may be a blowhard and kind of an idiot, but he’s not a bad guy. His judgment can be questioned, but not his sincerity. He is beloved by most of the men in his charge and unflinchingly committed to them. Their belief in him is exceeded only by his belief in himself as a legendary, larger-than-life figure. Everyone knows that he runs seven miles every morning, sleeps four hours a night and eats one meal a day. He his devoted to his wife (a wonderfully sly Meg Tilly) even though, as she points out over an anniversary dinner, they have spent 30 days in each other’s company over the past eight years.

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Brad Pitt as a commander in over his head and Ben Kingsley as President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.

Credit
Francois Duhamel/Netflix

McMahon is no tomcat, but no choirboy either. His attractive qualities of bluntness and loyalty are offset by a propensity for passive-aggressiveness in his dealings with civilian authority and a dogmatic attachment to some pretty dubious ideas. He is convinced that the war can be won and that he is the man who can win it. His hubris would be tragic if his overestimation of his own abilities were not so farcical.

Mr. Michôd, whose previous films include “Animal Kingdom,” a gamy crime drama, and “The Rover,” a dusty post-apocalyptic thriller, gestures toward the grim futility of…

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