Combustible Celluloid Review - Ambush (2023), Mark Earl Burman, Johnny Lozano, Michael McClung, Mark Earl Burman, Connor Paolo, Aaron Eckhart, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jason Genao, Mac Brandt, Jordan Johnson-Hinds, Patrick Walker
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With: Connor Paolo, Aaron Eckhart, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jason Genao, Mac Brandt, Jordan Johnson-Hinds, Patrick Walker
Written by: Mark Earl Burman, Johnny Lozano, Michael McClung
Directed by: Mark Earl Burman
MPAA Rating: R for violence, some bloody images, and language
Running Time: 104
Date: 02/24/2023

Ambush (2023)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Tunnel Division

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Despite a creaky plot setup and a small budget, this Vietnam War story manages to craft a strong commentary on the hypocrisy of war, while still respecting the people who risk their lives to fight.

It's 1966 and the U.S. Army is fighting the war in Vietnam. General Drummond (Aaron Eckhart) delivers a binder full of information on Vietnamese operatives working with the U.S. to Captain Mora (Gregory Sims) at a remote camp in the Quang Tri Provence. The camp is under the command of the very green Corporal Ackerman (Connor Paolo). They are to keep the binder safe until it can be transported out.

Unfortunately, from out of nowhere, Vietnamese soldiers attack and steal the binder. A tracker named Miller (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is sent, and he discovers tunnels dug under the jungle floor. Ackerman and his men are sent on the dangerous mission to map the tunnels and look for the binder. Can Ackerman and his men, with no combat experience, survive this dangerous mission?

Ambush begins with Eckhart delivering an exposition dump, all about this binder that could endanger the lives of helpful Vietnamese operatives, but it's clear that it's all just a "MacGuffin," or an object that everyone is after. And it's virtually the same "MacGuffin" that was used in Mission: Impossible (the "NOC" list).

But once it becomes clear that the movie is really about the young Ackerman character — headliners Eckhart and Jonathan Rhys Meyers have relatively small roles — things pick up. Ackerman is quite interesting, attempting to be a leader and prove himself, while wearing his insecurities on his sleeve.

When the mission starts, the men are physically separated by their rank, with the lowest scurrying in the tunnels, the next up traipsing through the jungle, and the highest seated behind comfortable desks. That the mission ultimately means nothing underlines Ambush's dark themes, culminating in a speech by General Drummond that is as empty as it is true.

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