Combustible Celluloid
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With: Shia LaBeouf, Kate Mara, Jai Courtney, Gary Oldman, Charlie Shotwell, Clifton Collins Jr.
Written by: Adam G. Simon, Dito Montiel, based on a story by Adam G. Simon
Directed by: Dito Montiel
MPAA Rating: R for some disturbing violence, and language throughout
Running Time: 92
Date: 12/05/2016

Man Down (2016)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Stress Again

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This war drama contains an earnest plea, a call for sympathy and understanding for soldiers suffering from PTSD, but the movie is so scattershot, somber, and confusing, that it never comes together. Director Dito Montiel is also a novelist and likes to tell stories about complex, urban men, but sometimes his ambition exceeds his reach, and his movies end up overly serious and a little simplistic. Man Down has the double-edged misfortune of being simplistic and complex at the same time.

In Man Down, which is told out of sequence, Gabriel Drummer (Shia LaBeouf) and his best pal Devin (Jai Courtney) join the Marines. They survive basic training, and then it's time for Gabriel to be shipped to Afghanistan, although Devin will be staying behind for a while due to a broken arm. There, Gabriel is involved with a brutal, haunting incident that resulted in several deaths; he meets with a psychiatrist (Gary Oldman) to discuss his feelings, but leaves feeling distraught. Later, he and Devin seem to be looking among some abandoned ruins for his missing wife (Kate Mara) and son (Charlie Shotwell). But Gabriel could be suffering from extreme PTSD; could his state of mind be in question?

The jumbled, out-of-sequence story contains individual passages that might have worked if they had been fleshed out, especially the scenes with Gary Oldman as a Marine therapist or the scenes of martial strife with Kate Mara. But the "looking for his son among the ruins" sequences are puzzling for a long time, until a big "surprise reveal," which seems misguided for a movie this severe. Meanwhile, Shia LaBeouf gives an intense, sometimes treacherous performance.

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