Man Down (2015)

  • Time: 92 min
  • Genre: Drama | Thriller
  • Director: Dito Montiel
  • Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Kate Mara, Jai Courtney


When a U.S. Marine returns home from Afghanistan, he finds that the place he once called home is no better than the battlefields he fought on overseas. Accompanied by his best friend, he searches desperately for the whereabouts of his estranged son and wife. In their search, the two intercept a man carrying vital information about his family.

One review

  • A compelling tale about PTSD that is severely bungled by writer-director Dito Montiel’s overcomplicated narrative, Man Down is partially salvaged by a strong central performance from Shia LaBeouf, who reminds audiences that, for all his head-scratching shenanigans off-screen, he can be a soulful and engaging presence on-screen.

    Beginning with a brief scene of LaBeouf’s camouflage-outfitted Gabriel Drummer rescuing his young son from some sort of abandoned warehouse amidst gunfire, the film rapidly pinballs through a series of alternating flashbacks that present a time-hopping jigsaw of events. There’s Gabriel with his wife Natalie (Kate Mara) and son Jonathan (Charlie Shotwell) living in red-white-and-blue picket-fence suburbia. There’s Gabriel with Captain Peyton (Gary Oldman, remarkably listless), who’s tasked with assessing Gabriel’s mental health after an “incident” on the battlefield. There’s Gabriel with childhood buddy and fellow soldier Devin (Jai Courtney) as they wander through a post-apocalyptic America, looking for survivors and trying to reunite with Gabriel’s family.

    What exactly has happened? What was the incident? What has happened to America? To the film’s credit, the questions are eventually and concretely answered but, unfortunately, all of this is froufrou in relation to the core story of how Gabriel devolves from an ordinary man motivated to enlist because of news reports about an imminent homeland pandemic attack to a confused and damaged veteran. On the one hand, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with Montiel refracting Gabriel’s traumatised psyche through these separate narrative strands and even cycling through different genres to do it, but when one already has a very solid tale to tell, the best method is to streamline rather than embellish.

    Additionally, Montiel doesn’t do anything to distinguish the different genre treatments from those that have been seen before, so the scenes taking place on the battlefield and the homefront are rote and pedestrian. Compare this to last year’s Maryland (aka Disorder), which explored PTSD within the framework of a suspense drama and was successful in its working of the genre as well as in its depiction of a man whose mind becomes his own battlefield. Fortunately for Montiel, LaBeouf delivers an agonisingly palpable portrayal of the emotionally wounded Gabriel, fighting the good fight against Montiel’s criminally manipulative and overly fussy execution.

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