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War Ma­chine. Brad Pitt’s lat­est, not Girls Aloud get­ting mil­i­tant.

Stream­ing gi­ant Netflix spent a re­ported $60 mil­lion on ac­quir­ing David Michôd’s

War Ma­chine, a satir­i­cal stab at the war in Afghanistan loosely adapted from Michael Hast­ings’ book The Op­er­a­tors, an ac­count of his month em­bed­ded with US Army Gen­eral Stan­ley McChrys­tal for a Rolling Stone pro­file. On this ev­i­dence, it was money well spent.

Here, the names have been changed to pro­tect the not-so-in­no­cent. Brad Pitt plays Gen­eral Glen McMa­hon, “the Glen­i­mal” as he’s nick­named, de­ployed to over­see the lat­est round of coun­terin­sur­gency. In other words “na­tion­build­ing”: win­ning the hearts of the lo­cals and clean­ing up a messy war.

McMa­hon makes it his mis­sion to root out in­sur­gents in the dan­ger­ous Hel­mand Prov­ince, but hubris gets the bet­ter of him and his men (“We’re the US mil­i­tary,” one yells, “we prac­ti­cally in­vented every­thing!”). Sharply scripted by Michôd ( Animal King­dom), it strikes a del­i­cate bal­ance be­tween jet-black hu­mour (the US sanc­tion­ing opium growth to boost the lo­cal econ­omy) and the hor­rors of war.

Like a com­pan­ion to David O. Rus­sell’s Three Kings, it’s stocked with great sup­port: Scoot McNairy as the Rolling Stone re­porter; To­pher Grace as an oily army PR; Ben Kings­ley as the Afghan pres­i­dent. Only a Teu­ton­ic­sound­ing Tilda Swin­ton as a Ger­man new­shound feels like show­boat­ing. But Pitt siz­zles in the lead, mak­ing this salute-wor­thy stuff. James Mot­tram

man on a mis­sion Brad Pitt suits up as Gen­eral Glen McMa­hon in David Michôd’s satir­i­cal drama.

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