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"Unknown Soldier" is a film about Ellison, a young man whose father suddenly dies, and after bouncing around from friend to friend becomes homeless. He ends up working for a street hustler named Zee. Ellison, who is wonderfully portrayed by Carl Louis, is basically an immature young teenager who is forced to grow up and become a man very quickly. I liked this film, especially when Ellison is forced to make choices about whether he will become a career criminal or abandon a life of crime before he's too deeply involved. There were some elements of film noir towards the end of the movie that should have been explored and extended more, but for a film from a debut director, Ferenc Tóth, it's quite an achievement. I saw this at the LA Film Festival in June 2004, and I asked Tóth if he had one piece of advice for a first-time director, what would it be? His answer - keep your story simple, and get good work out of your actors. A fine debut.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
UNKNOWN SOLDIER is a fantastic low-budget Independent film which engenders heart-felt emotions without a trace of sappiness or sentimentality. A young black man faces life on the streets when his father dies suddenly of a heart attack. We watch as he tries to 'Do The Right Thing', when that elusive 'Moral High Road' doesn't even seem to be an option. The film explores the lives of families who tread the narrow and unforgiving path of 21st Century Free Market Capitalism. One bad Twist of Fate results, not just in financial setbacks, but a terrifying downward plunge into abject poverty, and the loss of nearly every aspect of their old life. This young man is thrown headlong from a lighthearted existence with his friends and family, into trying to find a warm place to sleep on the sidewalk. Although the film is only about seventy minutes long, each character seems fully realized and entirely believable. No simple or easy answers are presented, and I think the final scene of the movie cleverly leaves the viewer with an allegorical message. Right at the end, the movie seems about to take off, as it seems that Ellison is finally forced to make an all out, last ditch effort to change what has been going on. But instead, in the final scene, Ferenc Toth, the director, pans up the stairs of a subway exit, and we witness Ellison, and dozens of people climbing upward. Maybe this is Toth's metaphor for Life: all of us are on an upward journey, and all we can do is 'keep on keeping on'. This metaphorical shift, in a way, reminded me of Lindsay Anderson's classic film, O LUCKY MAN. UNKNOWN SOLDIER is a cinematic journey which delivers an honest and sincere look at ordinary Americans who are truly living on the edge.
OK so here are the comments off the "official" web site.
"Astounding" - ABC7 CHICAGO Astounding seems to evoke some amazing emotion- astonishment. This movie...No- quite the opposite- sometimes- we ask of it- please hurry. Nothing more to say.
"An inspiring story of uncommon valor" - PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER I would not call it inspiring- perhaps (and at best, and at times, thought provoking). And valor is certainly misused.
"Proves that in the right hands simplicity can be a huge artistic asset" - ENTERTAINMENT INSIDERS This is the one comment that I can agree with. There was a focus on simple (good simple- not bad simple) and at times this came across as artistic (ex. the music in the first scenes). I do feel that the overall effort came out OK (even though I disagreed with the aforementioned reviewers.) Reasoning: This movie droned on at times. (Let me discuss the reasons why.) I think that first and foremost- tempo needs to continue- its got to keep on going. This movie did not have this- Why? Perhaps because when music should have been used it was absent from much of the film. When it was there I noticed it and it was really fantastic. It was reminiscent some jazz in Spike Lee's films. This is a huge compliment. Spike's music combination to video is tremendous and at times this film's music was as well. -But then it let you down. (Keep the music up.) Time developing characters and relationships seemed misplaced and drawn out on occasion. It left me wondering- where is the focus. Overall- I wanted it (and L) to win- and in some aspects it did. I enjoyed (parts of) it, but was hoping for more. Finally- What's up with the ending- really. Sometimes you say- wow this would really be a messed up place to end this movie- and in this case it was-...
i guess this was ultra-low budget. It kind of feels that way but it was
interesting. I felt like things kept moving forward, i didn't know
where it was going and maybe that's what i liked. I also liked that
this young black guy is just a regular kid, not some alpha-male with a
chip on his shoulder, which seems to be the stock black young man.
For me the ending really elevated the whole thing. they didn't try to make some big giant statement. they just showed us an image that lead us to believe L was going to be okay. I liked that. the director didn't tie it up in a nice bow. it's the kind of movie that should have an open-ended finish.
All in all i'd say it was strong enough to recommend because I found myself thinking about the story the next day. I didn't expect that, but there i was wondering about this guy while i was waiting for the bus. How many low-budget movies stick with you like that?
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