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A minor classic
1 December 2010
'The Way of the Gun' is a film that people either love or hate. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground. It could have benefited from some minor editing to help with the pacing, but I love the dialogue and characters so I can forgive this flaw.

Parker and Longbaugh are drifters and petty crooks, although they appear to have served in the military as judged from their training. While donating sperm for money, they overhear a doctor gossiping about a woman who is being paid $1 million to carry a wealthy couple's child to term. They quickly hatch a very poorly thought out plan to kidnap her and hold her for ransom.

The attempted kidnapping is ultimately successful only because the woman is trying to get away from the icy bodyguards who escort her everywhere she goes. After taking her, Parker and Longbaugh encounter one unforeseen complication after another. The wealthy patron who is the father of the unborn child brings in a bag man to "adjudicate" the entire situation, and Parker and Longbaugh are hamstrung by their own incompetence.

This is a talking heads movie punctuated by a few brief action scenes, and luckily it is populated by a great cast. Benicio del Toro and Ryan Phillipe are very good in this film, which is half of a surprise. Who knew that Phillipe had the range to pull this off? Juliette Lewis is, well, Juliette Lewis, as she sympathetically portray's Robin. James Caan nearly steals the movie as Joe Sarno, the bag man. There are a lot of great character actors at work, in fact there are too many to name. The dialogue is occasionally over written and writer / director Chris McQuarrie over indulges himself in the way these scenes play out. That said, there are a lot of beautifully crafted scenes in the film. The plot is really about the various family relationships that are slowly being revealed, and culminates with a surprising revelation about Joe Sarno's connection to Robin.

I love the metaphor used during the game of hearts speech, as well as the compassion that the two kidnappers show for their hostage. I love that the bodyguards are plotting against their boss in his own kitchen, while his scheming wife eavesdrops. Joe Kraemer delivers a beautiful orchestral score, and I particularly enjoyed the music which accompanied the ultrasound viewing. The piece of music which accompanied Sarno's receipt of the money was the other highlight in the film. One reviewer asked why the score was so prominent here: I will opine that it's because the scene sets up the final act wherein the characters' fates will be decided.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Sarah Silverman's hilarious and profane diatribe during the opening scene, which leads to a fight where Parker and Longbaugh are left bleeding on the ground. It's an image that bookends the film. I will also compliment McQuarrie on the fantastic weapons handling from all of the actors. Apparently his brother is a Navy SEAL, and he trained all of the actors. That man should become a full time technical adviser. We see Parker and Longbaugh use a perfectly executed bounding overwatch to break contact and escape the first failed kidnapping attempt, as well as outstanding room clearing skills and even a 'rolling T' when they sweep through the brothel. They also perform tactical reloads, weak hand magazine exchanges, and immediate action drills like complete pros. Very, VERY few films display this degree of technical accuracy, so for me it's noteworthy.

If you enjoy hard boiled dialogue and gritty realism, and you can enjoy a relationship based drama, then you probably already love 'The Way of the Gun.' It's a shame that it wasn't more commercially successful, because I'd love to see McQuarrie make another film like this.
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Hollywood excess on display
1 December 2010
Knight and Day isn't a bad film, it's just...sort of there. The first hour has some nice comedic moments, and as we discovered in 'Tropic Thunder,' Tom Cruise can be funny. Cameron Diaz portrays a character that is quickly becoming a cliché in modern comedic films: a beautiful woman who is hapless and quirky, and gets nervous around men. They have decent chemistry together, and even though Mangold is slumming here he puts together some decent action scenes.

In the second hour, despite the use of gorgeous locations in Spain, the film becomes dull and repetitive. The creepy running gag where Cruise drugs Diaz's character every time she panics becomes particularly obnoxious. Peter Saarsgard collects a paycheck, and does what he can to breath life into an underwritten villain. I got a kick out the casting of Dale Dye near the end, perhaps the only moment in the film where I really smiled.

In summation, this is a vaguely amusing action comedy that might help you pass time while you're waiting on a pizza or something. It wears out it's welcome in the second half, but it has its moments. According to the IMDb, a total of 8(!) writers re-worked Patrick O'Neill's script, and film making by committee would definitely explain why this bloated blockbuster feels so hollow.
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Restrepo (2010)
An excellent film
1 December 2010
The challenge of documentary film making is presenting the facts without interjecting personal opinions. This film succeeds brilliantly because it follows that rule.

'Restrepo' was a young combat medic in the 173rd Airborne Brigade who was killed in Afghanistan. A small outpost constructed on high ground once held by insurgents is named in his honor. The film follows the fifteen month deployment of a company that inhabits O.P. Restrepo, and the nearby combat outpost it protects.

The Korangal Valley of Afghanistan is remote, surrounded by imposing mountain ranges, and is very close to the border with Pakistan. For these reasons, it is a Taliban stronghold. O.P. Restrepo was attacked four or five times EVERY DAY with direct fire, and somehow the soldiers there dealt with the stress of living under those conditions. They are all normal, sympathetic guys, and in a few chosen moments of silliness we see how young they really are. The most heart breaking moment in the film is when we see a young Sergeant fall apart after his squad leader is killed. It's hard to watch.

The only person who I couldn't sympathize with was the Company Commander. One of the first scenes he is featured in shows him speaking to local elders, who complain that the previous American unit killed a large number of unarmed civilians. He heartlessly replies that he is wiping the slate clean, and has nothing else to say. We see him later on as he screams at the elders and tells them that he doesn't f***ing care what they think, a scene that made my jaw drop. He insulted all of the people whom those elders spoke for, potentially hundreds of military aged males. Anyone who has deployed to the Middle East knows that honor is everything to a Muslim, and to insult someone's honor is to invite an attack. The commander spends the film patting himself on the back, and when he mentions Restrepo at the end you assume he will finally say something sentimental about the eponymous fallen soldier. Nope; he is patting himself on the back again for his idea to construct O.P. Restrepo. He is completely lacking in compassion for his men and the losses they have endured, including the many fallen soldiers from his own command. He represents arrogant Washington bureaucracy all too well.

At the end of the film we discover that nearly fifty Americans died in the Korangal valley over the preceding years, protecting the site of a road that the military wanted to build to win the hearts and minds of locals. In 2009 the military abandoned its outposts in the valley and decided to concentrate its assets elsewhere.

If you ever meet one of the men who served there, shake his hand and buy him a beer. Some of them had multiple combat deployments even before they went to the Korangal valley. I only experienced a fraction of what these guys went through, so my hat goes off to all of them.

P.S. I loved how they wore baseball caps and sweatshirts. It makes me smile to imagine that senior Non-Commissioned Officers who sat in offices down range are freaking out about the relaxed uniform standards on the front lines. Well played Sky Soldiers, well played.
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A heartless affair
1 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Canadian film maker Paul Haggis created 'EZ Streets,' a morally gray show about a corrupt city where the cops and politicians were just as crooked as the gangsters who were actually running things. Joe Pantoliano played Jimmy Murtha, a murderer and drug dealer who chopped off his victims' hands and used them to plant fingerprints on murder weapons. Murtha was so three dimensional and well written, however, that he was both compelling and somewhat tragic. Haggis' next show, 'The Black Donnellys,' featured a flock of Irsh gangsters who killed people and dismembered their corpses to get rid of evidence while attempting to take over organized crime in New York. Like Murtha, Haggis viewed them as sympathetic and often tragic figures. Gangsters are okay in Haggis' book, as long as they're at least half Irish.

The recurring message that Haggis promulgates in this film is that soldiers who suffer from PTSD are all evil murderers. I'm only slightly hyperbolizing. Tommy Lee Jones displays great earnestness and little else as a Vietnam veteran named Hank Deerfield, who is trying to find his missing son. He seeks out the help of a female police detective, who in an underdeveloped subplot is harassed on occasion by misogynistic police cohorts. She hates soldiers (and rebukes one who dares to suggest that he's defending her freedom by serving in the military), because her dad was an evil and abusive soldier, and because she's investigating a tangential domestic violence case involving another evil soldier.

Deerfield's son, an enigma whom we learn absolutely nothing about except that he was evil and tortured innocent Iraqis for laughs, is eventually found in a field, having been stabbed dozens of times and set on fire. Deerfield tries to find the truth, but discovers that all of the polite and helpful soldiers he talked to are actually evil murderers who attacked his son (and their friend) because of a minor argument and killed him.

This story is based on a real incident, fictionalized by Haggis to trivialize a serious issue and use it for political ammunition. A lot of soldiers suffer from PTSD, and sadly there have been an abnormal number of murders across the U.S. committed by soldiers returning from stressful combat deployments. The victims have typically been spouses or fellow soldiers, but this issue isn't explored in any detail here. Instead we get an ambiguous metaphor about David and Goliath. Some say that it represents the plight of soldiers battling PTSD, but in light of Deerfield's story to the child and the use of the flag at the end of the film, I think that Haggis is saying that Goliath is the United States, and a rock (Iraq) is going to bring it down.

I tried to be objective when I skewered 'Redacted,' but this film made me even angrier. Writers Mark Boal ('opportunist' personified) and Paul Haggis avoid taking an objective look at the tragic crimes committed by and against veterans, and use them to further a political agenda. They portray veterans in the most alarmist and hateful way possible, and it saddens me that so many people complimented this film. The performances are good, the direction is adequate, I still don't know why military police drove to a crime scene in Humvees instead of taking their patrol cars.

EZ Streets was compelling because even characters who did reprehensible things were humanized, which made the audience care about them. Jimmy Murtha was a horrible person, but when we find out that his brother overdosed on drugs that Murtha payed for, it makes you empathize with him. That's what a good writer does: he or she makes you care about the characters they created regardless of whether they're good or bad. The failure of this film is that Haggis forgot his own lesson. The soldiers are all shallow and personality deprived military caricatures portrayed by unknown actors, and we see only the briefest glimpses of their humanity. These glimpses are eventually revealed to be fraudulent because the murderers are trying to avoid suspicion. The pathetic, base hatred for veterans that Charlize Theron's character espouses really sums up this film's intent.

More than 300,000 former soldiers and marines suffer from PTSD or major depression. We have lost more of our young veterans to suicide than to combat, but Paul Haggis doesn't care. He doesn't want you to feel compassion for them, he wants you to HATE them because they fought in a war he feels was unjust. He is certainly entitled to his opinion, and I am entitled to enjoy knowing that his film 'The Next Three Days' was a box office flop. Oh, and 'Crash' was a horrible, cloying film that the man behind EZ Streets should be ashamed of. 'Elah' is a black hearted propaganda piece that belongs in the same category. If the soldiers it depicted had been drug dealing Irish gangsters, I suppose he would have had more sympathy for them.
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Redacted (2007)
You can almost pinpoint the moment when DePalma's career ended
1 December 2010
It has admittedly been awhile since I viewed 'Redacted,' and having served in the military I obviously find it difficult to objectively review this movie (no, it's not a film). I will attempt to be objective and judge the film on its content rather than its political stance.

It is based on a horrific real life incident, where American soldiers raped a young girl and murdered her entire family. It was a disgraceful incident, and although I generally consider the death penalty to be barbaric, in the case of the men involved it would be a fitting punishment.

Redacted depicts the soldiers as standard Vietnam era military archetypes: the college educated white guy, the wisecracking minority, and the evil rednecks (nope, DePalma the writer isn't above resorting to that cliché).

I will issue DePalma a modicum of credit for trying to show how the characters built up to the moment where they could be capable of killing innocent civilians. The soldiers never know which Iraqis are insurgents and which ones are innocent, which leads to a tragic shooting at a checkpoint. An IED kills a Master Sergeant who was accompanying them on a patrol for some reason, and then they find out that their deployment to Iraq has been extended. They endure long hours in the heat, bored out of their minds, and not knowing where the next attack might come from. The two aforementioned cliché rednecks actually commit the rape and murders, while another soldier films them (to help him get into film school, natch) and a fourth looks on helplessly. The insurgents (whose actions in the film are always in response to American atrocities, and who never target civilians) kidnap a soldier from a checkpoint and execute him as retribution.

The main problem with this film, aside from the very thin characters, is the acting. This film was made on a small budget and was cast with unknown actors. I'm not pinning the film's shortcomings on them when I say that the performances are uniformly poor. The mixed media style of the narrative is clumsy and poorly put together, and to be honest the last half hour of the film was so poorly made that it was nearly unwatchable. There is a point when the actions of the people on screen literally stop making sense, such as one of them wearing a REALLY bizarre hat for no reason whatsoever. It almost seemed like DePalma himself stopped caring or was using drugs. I can't overstate the fact that I'm not trying to find fault solely because I didn't agree with DePalma's world view; he's entitled to his beliefs. But the film making here was stunningly, disastrously inept. And this was from the man who made 'The Untouchables'? Then again, he turned James Ellroy's most compelling novel into a terrible waste of film, so that should tell you something.

As in nearly all Iraq war films, Iraqis are depicted as faceless victims or masked terrorists. No greater depth is afforded to them. This film is a polemic, designed to elicit a particular emotional response from viewers, and has no insight into the situation on the ground. The civil war between Shiite militias and Sunni fighters, the corrupt and unpopular government, the rampant unemployment, the influence of Iran and Syria, the remnants of the Hussein regime supporters and Ba'ath party, and the lack of social infrastructure receive no mention. All you need to know is that Americans are rapists and killers, and once they leave all of the problems that were created when the British created Iraq and forced three different races of people (Arabs, Persians, and Kurds) to live together will be magically solved.

If you're from Europe, and you hate Americans and can't understand why they don't bow to supposedly superior education and presumed moral superiority, then you will enjoy this film. It caters to you, it won't challenge you, and it serves to reinforce what you already believe. It doesn't offer insight, it doesn't pose questions, and it doesn't humanize people on either side of the conflict. Instead, it gives you one dimensional stereotypes that you can easily vilify.

Brian DePalma has a right to his beliefs, and believe it or not I can respect someone who is passionate enough about a belief to speak out, but this is supremely lazy film making across the board. For those of you who were insulted by the film, know that DePalma desperately tried to get hired to direct the ultra low budget 'Paranormal Activity 2' and was passed over. What does that tell you?
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One of my favorite films of all time
1 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This is nearly a perfect movie. Bryan Singer's second film, from an Oscar winning script by Christopher McQuarrie is a masterpiece, plain and simple. It's topped off by a fantastic score by John Ottman (I agree with the many other posters who said that it was one of the best scores of the 90s).

For a film with so many disparate characters, it all comes together beautifully, a credit to both the actors and the film makers. Five career criminals are brought together in a police lineup in New York City, apparently so that a man one of them robbed at gunpoint can identify the perpetrator. In the holding cell afterward, they decide to work together.

The film is (unreliably) narrated by Roger 'Verbal' Kint, played in an Oscar winning turn by Kevin Spacey. Not only is his character well fleshed out, but Spacey makes an inveterate liar and con man into a sympathetic figure. Gabriel Byrne, playing a disgraced former cop named Keaton, deserves equal praise for his pitch perfect delivery of every line of dialogue he utters. All of the characters have a life and a back story, even Fenster (a then unknown Benicio Del Toro). His bizarre and inspired performance allows him to make the most of his limited screen time. Comedian Kevin Pollock is a thief with a Napoleon complex, who butts heads with fellow tough guy McManus (Stephen, the most obscure of the Baldwins).

The script concerns these five men being blackmailed into taking down an ocean liner allegedly carrying $91 million in cocaine, which is guarded by dozens of heavily armed men. What separates this from other crime thrillers is the shadowy presence of the never seen Keyser Soze, an almost supernatural Turkish crime lord. He is represented by an Asian / English attorney 'named' Mr. Kobayashi, who forces the five anti-heroes into this nearly impossible crime. Pete Postelthwaite (sp?) injects icy politeness and fascinating mannerisms into the role.

What I love most about this film, aside from the brilliant build-up and off kilter dialogue, are the little moments that Singer gives to the actors. Its when the film breathes that it is at its strongest. For instance, the scene outside the police precinct where Keaton looks at each of his future partners in crime as he hugs his girlfriend Edie, or the moment in his apartment when he looks down at her from the balcony before leaving for L.A. My favorite is the image of Keaton's reflection outside the conference room where Kobayashi meets with Edie (a lovely and unknown Suzy Amis), and second to that is the moment in the van where the criminals discuss the near impossibility of taking down the ocean liner. The use of music and sound in each scene is perfect.

The reveal of Kint's true nature has been often imitated, but in this film it is not a mere "gotcha" moment as Roger Ebert seemed to think it was in his review. The entire film led to that moment. The Customs agent arrogantly stated that he was smarter than Kint and could get the truth out of him, goading him into constructing the elaborate fantasy. And as Kint himself said early on in the film, he talks too much. Ottman's editing is a crescendo which gives the final revelation all of the impact it deserves.

It's up to the viewer to decide whether Keyser Soze is real, or a mere story, but it's a fascinating question to leave to the viewer. This is a rare case of everything coming together just right in a low budget film. Singer makes the most out of a small budget and delivers both great action and great character moments. Newton Thomas Sigel's stunning lighting and camera work make the film look better than any Hollywood blockbuster that came out in the same time frame, a tribute to what an independent film can accomplish with the right craftsmen.

As I said earlier, this is a masterpiece.
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Apt Pupil (1998)
Singer's forgotten film
1 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
'The Usual Suspects' is one of my favorite films, and 'Apt Pupil' is the closest that Bryan Singer has ever come to recreating the atmosphere and intensity of his prior work. 'Pupil' is a very flawed film, but still an entertaining and insightful one. I haven't read the Stephen King novella which it is based upon for quite some time, so I don't recall all of the differences between the two works.

Todd Bowden is a seemingly above average high school student. In 1984, he is a sixteen year old high school senior who is also a star pitcher for his school's baseball team. Basically he is the kind of kid that every parent wishes they had, except that he has a hidden dark side. This dark side manifests itself in a morbid fascination with the horrific crimes against humanity that were committed by the third Reich. An uncredited Christopher McQuarrie opens the film with a fantastically written narration, asking whether the Nazis actions were the result of economic, cultural, or social influences. He then posits that it may simply have been human nature. On the bus home one night, Todd recognizes an old man named Kurt Dussander as one of the famous war criminals he has been obsessively studying. The look of recognition in actor Brad Renfro's eye as the camera pans in is subtly and fantastically depicted. Bowden goes to great lengths to ensure that he has the right man before he confronts him (to include analyzing fingerprints).

Todd has no interest in turning the Dussander in; instead he blackmails him into giving detailed recollections of his grisly past. The movie slowly becomes a chess game between the two, and soon they are blackmailing each other. As Dussander warns, Todd is playing with fire.

John Ottman's opening score was disappointing, but the rest of the music and his editing were top notch. The film's primary flaw is that ten minutes or so could have been edited out of the middle portion of the film. Elias Koteas is a great actor, but his scenes go on for far too long, to the point of undermining the suspense. Tighter editing could have made this a much more popular film in my opinion, because the performances are stunning. Most of the film consists of Ian McKellan and Brad Renfro's characters in Dussander's house, and to their credit they're always compelling.

Two scenes stand out for me. One is the dinner table scene, where Dussander easily wins over Todd's entire family with effortless charm. The second is where Todd forces him to wear an SS officer's uniform procured from a costumer (Dussander wryly notes that he's been promoted when he sees the rank tabs). His gradual descent back into his former self is chilling and McKellan plays it perfectly.

Brandon Boyce's script and Bryan Singer's direction are dead on, except as I already mentioned more editing was needed in the middle of the film. The last half hour was masterfully constructed, and although the ending departs from the novella I preferred it. I think it had a lot more substance and was more unnerving than King's sudden, shocker ending. Does the film rely on a two amazing coincidences (Todd recognizing Dussander, and the old man sharing a hospital room with Dussander)? You bet. Does it work? I think so.

Overall it's a good film with some interesting suppositions about the nature of evil, and it's a shame that it faded into obscurity.
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A difficult film to review
1 December 2010
In 2004, three Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians who are wearing uniforms from two years in the future defuse a serious of fiendishly clever improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in war torn Baghdad. Sergeant James, the new team leader, begins taking increasingly questionable risks. He has become hooked on the adrenaline of matching wits with master bomb makers, and in the end he finds that nothing else in his life matters anymore. He and his two comrades will find themselves forever changed by their experiences.

I have been a fan of director Kathryn Bigelow since 1995, when I first saw her film 'Strange Days.' I later became a fan of 'Near Dark' when it was released on DVD, and I have enjoyed most of her other film and television work. Did she deserve an Oscar for this film? I believe that she did, although her screenwriter didn't. She made a great looking film outside of the studio system on a tiny budget, and she cast unknown actors who delivered star-making performances under her aegis.

Mark Boal's script, as many have noted, is underwhelming and episodic. There really isn't any narrative thrust. Sergeant James is the only person with a complete character arc and some degree of depth. Sanborn reveals that he wants a son at the end, whereas Eldridge's minor arc culminated with him killing an insurgent, but for the most part they're relegated to the background. There are a few touches of verisimilitude (bootleg DVDs, white and orange taxis, the gunner throwing a water bottle at civilian traffic to move it out of the way), but for the most part the scenarios and the actions of the protagonists are extremely unrealistic. I won't go into detail about the technical inaccuracies (in a film that was touted for its realism), but an experienced soldier can find something wrong in nearly every single scene (and why oh why did some characters wear flags on both shoulders? Argh). Mark Boal is no Stanley Kubrick, that much is clear.

'The Hurt Locker' was filmed in Jordan, and although I didn't think that it looked very similar to urban Iraq, Bigelow chose some great and occasionally beautiful locations. As with most war films, the locals are used as set dressing and have very little interaction with the characters. There is no reference to the sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites, and no real insight into the political or economic struggles that the country continues to endure. In a two hour movie about the Iraq war, the protagonists only interact briefly with about three Iraqis. This film won't tell foreigners anything about Iraqi culture or how warm and friendly most Iraqis are. It does do a good job of showing and how ruthless and heartless the insurgents are, and hints at how damaging this form of warfare is to the Americans and how it can make them become heartless too.

Finally, I don't want to bash EOD or the dangerous job they do, but this film dramatizes their heroism to mythic proportions. EOD will go out on missions with an escort/security platoon after another unit has found an improvised explosive device. Combat engineers and even regular infantry units are tasked with actually going out to LOOK for IEDs, often and sometimes tragically falling victim to them. To me those men are more heroic and deserving of recognition than the EOD technicians, who operate in a controlled environment and usually use robots to approach the devices.

In summation, I'm glad that Hollywood finally appreciates Kathryn Bigelow's work, but I think this film is quite overrated. I loved Marco Beltrami's morose score, and Barry Ackroyd's camera work and lighting, but technical prowess doesn't make up for sub par writing.
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Garrison (2008)
A well-intentioned attempt at no frills filmmaking
1 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I read that writer / director Kerry Valerrama was a former soldier and OEF veteran, so I allowed myself to hope that someone had actually made a realistic film about life in the post-September 11th army. Unfortunately, I was bound to be disappointed. This is essentially a very low budget murder mystery that tackles a few serious issues in passing, but doesn't reach to the core of those issues.

The film is about a platoon from the 82nd Airborne (an 82nd patch is briefly seen on McManus' shoulder but then disappears in the same scene), and contains three interwoven stories. The main narrative is about Sergeant McManus and Sergeant Cain searching for their AWOL squad leader, who suffers from PTSD and has been abusing his wife. We see glimpses of McManus' home life, and how he rarely sees his family because he is always at work. There is also a b-story about three brand new Privates who are being hazed, which is mostly played for laughs (and it's very similar to how I was treated at my first unit).

Most of the performances are underwhelming, although the actors who portrayed the Platoon Sergeant, Cross, and "Machine" stood out. They were the only ones who left an impression. The storyline meanders along but is mildly entertaining. There is a twist ending, which I will try not to spoil here. It somewhat makes sense, because Cross felt like he owed McManus his life and wanted to protect him. The denouement is also intentionally ambiguous, but these plot turns come across as a tad bit exploitive since the film is based on a real incident.

First time director Valderrama displays a nice cinematic flourish by introducing characters with type-written name and rank information, but he overuses this device and unnecessarily introduces too many minor characters with it. The direction and editing of the opening credits, and the use of music, was also well done. Considering that this film was made for very little money, it's impressive that he pulled it off. There are some amateurish directing moments (the three soldiers kicking the bouncer) but overall he acquits himself well as a low budget film maker. The moment where Cross taps the gas can with his pistol was creepy and well realized, as was the image of him eating popcorn in the rain.

I can't cover all of the many (MANY) uniform and technical inaccuracies here, but they stand out and are very distracting. I understand that uniform appearances may have to be altered for legal reasons, but American flags on both shoulders? And I was amused that Valderrama forgot what "MOUT" actually stands for.

Is this a realistic look at the lives of soldiers? Eh, kinda. The characters are pretty thin and I can't say that I really identified with them. There was one nice moment in the jeep where McManus said that you can't talk to people about what they don't understand, which nicely and tragically summed up the plight of someone suffering from PTSD. If there had been more moments in the film like that, then it would have been more successful, because it's one of the few times that the audience is allowed to empathize with a character.

Better luck next time.
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