Movies about modern military conflicts, whether action, drama, or comedy are tough nuts to crack. For every epic war film like Black Hawk Down, American Sniper, or Zero Dark Thirty there are clunkers like Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Jarhead, or The Delta Force. Part of the problem, speaking as an Army veteran, is that it’s very hard to capture the nuances and idiosyncrasies of the military and how our troops interact on-duty/off-duty.
Each branch of the military is a culture unto itself, heavy with jargon, rivalries, and living conditions that are difficult to translate on-screen and generally opaque to the general public. Try explaining the mutual dislike between the Army and the Marines to someone who’s never served, it’s one of those “you’d have to be there” kind of things to explain.
Military comedies, are perhaps the most challenging sub-genre to get right. Outside of Robert Altman’s classic M*A*S*H and David O. Russell’s Three Kings, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another successful war comedy or dramedy. Filmmakers have to balance gallows humor, the reality of life and death, and the general absurdity of war, which is insanely difficult to achieve.
Netflix is about to debut their long-gestating, mid-budget, Afghanistan-focused comedy, War Machine, starring Brad Pitt. A new trailer has just been released, and it looks really promising:
Pitt plays 4-star Army general, Glen McMahon, a charismatic and impulsive leader who believes he can single-handedly change the course of the war. The fictional film is based on the high-acclaimed, non-fiction book The Operators: The Wild & Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan by the late journalist Michael Hastings.
Here’s a synopsis from Netflix:
In a film for our times, writer-director David MichÃ´d (Animal Kingdom) recreates a U.S. Generalâ€™s roller-coaster rise and fall as part reality, part savage parody â€“ raising the specter of just where the line between them lies today. His is an anti-establishment, pro-soldier exploration in the form of an absurdist war story of a born leaderâ€™s ultra-confident march right into the dark heart of folly.
The cast, which includes Topher Grace, Anthony Michael Hall, Alan Ruck, Tilda Swinton and Sir Ben Kingsley looks tremendous. The trailer conveys a particularly madcap and raw tone, which underscores the insanity of our 16-year (and counting) presence in Afghanistan.
What’s your favorite war film, comedy or otherwise? Let us know in the comments down below!
War Machine hits Netflix on May 26, 2017.
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