So I watched War Machine last night, Brad Pitt’s straight to Netflix movie based on journalist Michael Hastings’ book The Operators, itself an expansion of his infamous Rolling Stone magazine article which cost General Stanley McChrystal his job as Commander ISAF in 2010.
It’s interesting that Brad’s character is a fictional General McMahon, clearly masquerading as McChrystal, while Presidents Karzai (wonderfully impersonated by Ben Kingsley) and Obama (mostly played by himself courtesy of TV news clips) are not similarly disguised.
I never met General McChrystal but unfortunately Brad’s characterisation doesn’t remind me of any of the American Generals I have met (Schwarzkopf and Gurganus) and, for me at least, his performance falls flat.
Despite this, War Machine contains scenes that will be familiar to anyone who served with ISAF in Afghanistan, most notably the request of a local man to US marines who have just liberated his village from Taliban oppression to “please leave now”.
It also makes some pertinent points about the futility of counter-insurgency warfare. “The thing about counter-insurgency is that it doesn’t work. We tried it in Vietnam. That went well.”
Ultimately, War Machine is not consistently funny enough to be a satire or exciting enough to be a war movie but it is worth a watch.
SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand is the unauthorised, unvarnished and irreverent story of one man’s midlife crisis on the front line of the most dangerous district in Afghanistan where the locals haven’t forgiven the British for the occupation of 1842 or for the Russian Invasion of 1979. Of course, all infidels look the same so you can’t really tell them apart.
‘Brims with authenticity and dark humour.’
Patrick Hennessey, bestselling author of The Junior Officers’ Reading Club
Doug Beattie, bestselling author of An Ordinary Soldier
Dr Mike Martin, bestselling author of An Intimate War
‘A must read.’
Richard Dorney, bestselling author of The Killing Zone
‘The best book by a soldier concerning the Afghan War that I have read’
Frank Ledwidge, bestselling author of Losing Small Wars
SOLDIER The official magazine of the British Army
‘Not just for soldiers’
William Reeve, BBC World Service and Afghanistan Correspondent