You would think a $60 million Brad Pitt star vehicle wouldn’t have a problem stirring up buzz in the summer movie season, and yet Netflix’s “War Machine” has been completely DOA. The War in Afghanistan satire from director David Michôd (“Animal Kingdom,” “The Rover”) debuted on the streaming platform May 26, but from the looks of it absolutely nobody is paying attention. While hardly panned, “War Machine” received forgettable critical notices. It boasts a 58% on Rotten Tomatoes, with IndieWire’s Eric Kohn giving the movie a B- review, and has hardly become a talking point among anyone, really.
Except the Pentagon that is. Netflix already has a huge hit among D.C. workers thanks to “House of Cards,” and it appears the Pentagon is about the only place “War Machine” is making a serious impact. While speaking with The New York Times podcast The Daily, Pentagon reporter Helene Cooper made it very clear that “everybody at the Pentagon is talking about [the movie].” The way Michôd balances the honorable military with the buffoonery of our involvement in the war speaks directly to both sides of the debate, and it’s tapping a nerve in D.C.
“It’s a very anti-Afghanistan war movie, but the guys who you think would be offended by it, love it,” Cooper says. “It’s amazing to me. So many of them have lost colleagues, they’ve lost fellow soldiers and are constantly asking, ‘What are we still doing there? What are we fighting for?’ But at the same time, we have these officers who say, ‘We’ve lost all these people in Afghanistan, we’ve spent so much blood and treasure on the ground in that country and then you just turn around and pull out. What was that for?’ It’s a contradiction at the same time.”
That contradiction happens to be the driving force of “War Machine,” which makes it a no-brainer that Pentagon workers are becoming fans. The lack of buzz surrounding “War Machine” has supported claims that sometimes Netflix’s streaming release strategy works against their movies. Because a film like “War Machine” doesn’t have a proper theatrical release, it looses the awareness that traditional releases receive. But we should never doubt Netflix, as they clearly know the markets that will tap into their content. “War Machine” may not be breaking out the way “House of Cards” has over its seasons, but it’s taking advantage of the demographic that Netflix was most likely hoping for.
We’ll never know just how many people are streaming “War Machine,” but clearly it’s finding an audience even if buzz outside of D.C. is completely non-existent. The movie is now streaming on Netflix.