Based on the late Michael Hastings' The Operators, War Machine casts Pitt as a lampoon of General Stanley McChrystal, who served as Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan from June 2009 to June 2010. Pitt's Gen. Glen McMahon ("The Glenninator" to his subordinates) is a tough-as-nails, American warlord who barks his way through bureaucracy with a persona that's part Don Imus, part Popeye. He's a caricature, or he starts that way, backed by a motley crew who make the gang from M.A.S.H. look like Seal Team 6. None of them are idiots, though they're all stuck in their ways, the quirks of aggression, addiction, devotion (mostly to their General), and disinterest in standard operating procedure all standing in their way of the actual mission: remove American troops from conflict.
Their first steps into the war zone plays like a militarized Veep. The escapade soon winds through the labyrinthine timeline of truth to become a chewier thinkpiece. Michôd and Pitt resist joking too hard at the war effort's expense. As War Machine's narrator, a Rolling Stone features writer who later implodes McMahon's persona, says over a sweeping shot of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's compound opulent compound, "Wars aren't fought by nations, or by armies, they're fought by men."
Real people conceived plans that would rev up the American offensive and, in the eyes of marines and Washington observers alike, bungle the operation. War Machine is dense, analytical, and convoluted as an expression of war in the new millennium. McMahon and his troops couldn't just flood the country and "shoot the Nazis." Insurgents look like civilians. Motives, American and Afghan, are murky. As War Machine wades through the rippling effect of McMahon's every move, as cartoonish as they can seem, the real world implications become more and more apparent -- and mind-boggling.