What We Know: Netflix’s War Machine

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By: Jaclyn Cascio (@jaclynator)

Netflix has been incredibly successful with their original shows and it looks like the streaming service is moving into the film realm with their new project, War Machine. With the biggest investment the company has made so far in a feature film, a lot rests on the shoulders of the film’s star, Brad Pitt. Keep reading to find out everything we know about the upcoming online-release movie!

In 2010, a Rolling Stone article by Michael Hastings called “The Runaway General” highlighted the leadership of real-life military officer General Stanley McChrystal. It told the story of an officer who spoke with candor and often rolled on missions without his entourage. Although apparently well-liked by those serving with him, General McChrystal’s criticisms of the administration’s approach to war in Afghanistan ultimately led to the end of his career after the article was published. In 2012, Hastings published his book, The Operators: The Wild & Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan, which is the basis for the new film, War Machine.

In April 2012, New Regency and Plan B Entertainment got the rights for Hastings’ book. Two years later, David Michôd (Animal Kingdom) was hired to write and direct the project. By June 2015, Netflix acquired the distribution rights for the picture in an unprecedented move and the casting process continued. Finally, in October 2016, principal photography began in London, with later filming in Abu Dhabi (acting as a stand-in for Kabul).

The lead character of War Machine is General McMahon (played by Brad Pitt). Although McChrystal reportedly never filed any legal action against a theatrical portrayal of himself, producers and leadership decided to avoid legal issues and change the name, along with opening up the door for more creative liberties with their McMahon character, with some basis on the real-life McChrystal.

Produced by Ian Bryce, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, and Brad Pitt, the political satire and dark comedy War Machine is set to be an absurdist war story. How much truth and how much creative liberty contributes to that absurdity remains to be seen. Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer of Netflix, has said of the film, “War Machine is a rip-roaring, behind-the-façade tale of modern war decision-makers, from the corridors of power to the distant regions of America’s ambitions.” The “pro-soldier/anti-establishment” project will follow a four-star general, Dan McMahon, as he is sent to Afghanistan to end (read: manage) the war. Taking the challenge on with confidence, General McMahon discovers that his new role puts him under attack, and his hubris just might be his downfall.



War Machine stars the legendary Brad Pitt, but he’s not alone in the talented cast set to bring the tale of war administration to life. Ben Kingsley will play President Hamid Karzai (former president of Afghanistan), and Topher Grace (That 70s Show) will portray Matt Little, General McMahon’s press advisor. John Magaro will play Cory Staggart, a special operations soldier and close personal advisor to McMahon, and Emory Cohen fills the role of Willy Dunne, a member of the general’s staff. Anthony Michael Hall is set to play Greg Pulver (a character loosely based on General Mike Flynn), Keith Stanfield will be Corporal Billy Cole, and Josh Stewart will be Captain Dick North. Meg Tilly fills the role of General McMahon’s wife, Jean. Other cast includes RJ Cyler (as Andy Moon), Daniel Betts (as Simon Ball), Scoot McNairy (as Sean Cullen), Will Poulter (as Ricky Ortega), Anthony Hayes (as Pete Duckman), Alan Ruck (as Pat McKinnon), Griffin Dunne (as Ray Canucci), Georgina Rylance (as Lydia Cunningham), and Tilda Swinton rounding out the cast as a German politician.

If you watched and enjoyed the HBO miniseries Generation Kill, Netflix’s project is probably right up your alley. Not for the sensitive viewers, War Machine promises to delve unapologetically (and humorously) into the conflict in Afghanistan and its management. War Machine will be released on Netflix on May 26, 2017. Set aside a couple hours, grab some popcorn and snacks, and mark your calendar to check out the original flick!


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