War Machine is a 2017 American satirical war film written and directed by David Michôd and starring Brad Pitt, Anthony Michael Hall, Anthony Hayes, Topher Grace, Will Poulter, Tilda Swinton, and Ben Kingsley. Based on the nonfiction book The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan by Michael Hastings, it is a fictionalized version of the events in the book based on United States Army General Stanley McChrystal.
The film was released on Netflix on May 26, 2017.
In the summer of 2009, four-star General Glen McMahon, having won renown for his effective leadership in Iraq, is sent to Afghanistan to prepare an assessment so that the government can end the ongoing war. He is given wide latitude to write it, on the sole condition that he did not request more troops. McMahon and his staff, particularly his right-hand man Major General Greg Pulver, are united in their belief that the war can be won, and decide to recommend that President Obama authorized a surge of 40,000 additional troops to secure Helmand province to stabilize the country. However, the Secretary of State informs McMahon that, because he requested more troops, and such a surge is incompatible with elections, McMahon's report will not be reviewed until after Afghanistan's presidential election.
Captain Badi Basim, a member of the Afghan National Army, joins McMahon's staff as a "representative" of the Afghan people. He arrives, however, in civilian clothes as he would rather not wear his uniform, which he has in a bag. Meanwhile, McMahon is informed that, due to alleged irregularities in the counting of votes, a runoff election will have to be held, further delaying the review of the assessment. Fed up, McMahon secretly leaks the assessment to the Washington Post and organizes an interview with 60 Minutes, during which he reveals that, in the last 70 days, he has only been granted one meeting with President Obama. In response, the U.S. government announces that they will send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan and that all U.S. and coalition forces in the country will leave in 18 months. To gather the remaining 10,000 troops needed for his strategy to work, McMahon and his men head to Paris to negotiate with the other coalition nations.
In Paris, McMahon learns that the President is in Denmark and wishes to meet with him. The ambassador to Afghanistan warns McMahon that he needs to understand President Obama's position: if McMahon continues to anger the President, he will be fired for insubordination. The President, however, merely shakes McMahon's hand as he climbs aboard Air Force One, supposedly due to time constraints, and McMahon and his staff attend a dinner in McMahon's honor, accompanied by Rolling Stone writer Sean Cullen, who intends to write a feature story about his performance for an upcoming issue. The next day, during their wedding anniversary dinner, McMahon's wife Jeanie confronts him about how much time he's been spending fighting abroad instead of being with his family back home.
While en route to Berlin with McMahon's staff to continue negotiations, Cullen observes their behavior and concludes that they are arrogant, and seem to care little about the growing public perception that the war is costly and wasteful. At a conference to discuss his strategy, McMahon is confronted by a German official who is skeptical of his approach and suggests that McMahon's plans would only lead to more losses. Nevertheless, both the Germans and the French agree to furnish the troops needed for McMahon's planned offensive, codenamed "Operation Moshtarak", to begin, with Afghan President Hamid Karzai's approval.
The operation launches, but soon runs into trouble when several civilians are accidentally killed against McMahon's instructions. When he holds a public meeting to explain the incident, the crowd grows hostile and demands that McMahon and his troops leave.
Worse, McMahon learns that Cullen's article has been published, and paints a negative picture of him and his staff as openly speaking against the President and mishandling the war effort. Knowing that he will be fired for his actions, McMahon returns to Washington and later takes a job as a civilian consultant.
In the aftermath, Cullen ponders the consequences of his article, noting that he wished McMahon's fall would finally convince the government to stop invading foreign countries and end the war in Afghanistan. Instead, however, the government simply assigns a new general to replace McMahon.