Netflix is taking an ambitious step towards a larger presence in the movie business with the release of "War Machine" today, starring Brad Pitt. The black comedy looks at American military misadventures in Afghanistan with a cynical point of view.

A true story

There's a true story at the heart of "War Machine," that of real life Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who became head of the war effort in Afghanistan in 2009, a move that would end his career ingloriously. Writer-director David Michod turned McChrystal into Gen. Glen McMahon, even though many of the details -- such as the Rolling Stone interview fiasco -- and peripheral characters like President Obama, are real.

Brad Pitt pays McMahon as an old-school soldier, a fitness nut, and almost a cliche of the macho warrior type who runs seven miles every day, and only sleeps four hours a night. He's not such a bad guy, really, and he's certainly not evil. But he is overly confident, and seems to believe in himself to the point of losing touch with concrete reality.

Back in Washington, support for the Afghanistan war effort is dwindling even as Brad Pitt's Gen. McMahon insists it is winnable. In real life, the Rolling Stone article "The Runaway General" garnered a National Magazine Award finalist for excellence in reporting nomination for writer Michael Hastings. The article details McChrystal and his aides as they diss President Obama and Vice President Biden, make homophobic jokes, drink copious amounts of liquor and end up dancing on tables during a European visit.

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The portrait it paints is less than flattering, to say the least, and as one of the bureaucrats remarks, "Why is a general talking to Rolling Stone in the first place?"

Critical response

There is a whole stack of stellar talent in peripheral roles, like a subtly comedic Meg Tilly as McMahon's wife, and Topher Grace as a driven spin doctor for the general. Reviews for "War Machine" have been mixed. The New York Times praises Brad Pitt's over the top portrayal of the general's overzealous belief in his own abilities, while CNN finds the performance a little too over the top, and the movie's pace uneven.

Ultimately, General McMahon's doom is that he thinks the war is winnable, and that he's just the general to do it. He enters an Afghani village with a speech about how great things will be, detailing improvements like schools and roads for the people that they can have with American help, and their response is, "Please leave." It's a request he should have heeded.

The end of a career

On the ground, both the fictional and real life general’s insistence on a strategy called counterinsurgency, which uses political as well as military strategy, wasn't producing results.

In real life, McChrystal was fired from the role of commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan after the article came out. That is also General McMahon's role in the movie version.

But, will anything really change? As the movie ends, another general arrives to take his place.

"War Machine," starring Brad Pitt, is streaming on Netflix as of today, May 26, 2017.