Man Down (2015)

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

Storyline:

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.

2 reviews

  • 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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  • “So, anytime I want to say I love you, what am I going to say to you? Man down.”

    “Man down” is a terribly underrated film in my opinion. No, it’s not a post-apocalyptic SF movie like there have been so many in recent years (both excellent and bad). And no, the main theme is not how a marine survives a tour in Afghanistan and returns as an outright war hero (as in “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”). The entire film is a mixture of three different time-lines. Timelines that swing around a specific incident. An incident that had such an impact on Gabriel Drummer (Shia LaBeouf) that his vision about reality changed completely. The whole intent only becomes clear after the revelation in the end. And to be honest, I was a bit out of my depth. Even without the terrible statistics that were shown during the credits. To be honest, this was the only thing that bothered me. For me this is just used to strengthen the dramatic aspect.

    To be honest, as prevention I’ve hesitated a long time to watch this film because of the rather serious criticism that circulated about it. When reading the quotes of digital articles, you’ll lose the will to watch this seemingly horrible film : “Man down is a Cliché-Ridden Mess”, “A meandering mystery”, “A disappointing hodgepodge of ideas and styles” and also “A convoluted tangle of idiotic time-lines”. And the fact that only one entry ticket was sold at the premiere in the U.K. (I’ve read it here), wasn’t a good sign either. On the other hand, maybe this shows how impressionable the English are. Or does this say something about the taste of these always counter-acting islanders?

    “Man down” is an atypical war movie. The main topic is about the psychological damage caused to a soldier due to a traumatic experience. Many viewers will probably get crazy from the back and forth jumping between the different time-lines. The first story-line deals with the family life of Gabriel and the start of his training as a marine which was recommended by his best friend Devin (Jai Courtney). Then there’s the Afghan story-line where there’s also a bit of switching from the battle and “the incident”, to the therapeutic sessions with Captain Peyton (Gary Oldman). Finally, there’s also a futuristic part. A future where the U.S. suffered from a devastating war and where Gabriel, along with Devin, traverses the ruined city in search of his son Jonathan (Charlie Shotwell). Sometimes it was difficult to follow. In hindsight, I have to admit that it’s brilliantly put together. The three stories are ingeniously interwoven and grow together towards the redeeming denouement.

    Most likely this film will be an abomination for the impatient moviegoer. It seems as if nothing special happens for a long time. But it’s worth it to be patient for a little while longer. Even though I had a little hunch about the final outcome, it was still a surprise. And not only the underlying story appealed to me. I also appreciated the decent acting performances of Shia LaBeouf, Jai Courtney, Charlie Shotwell and Kate Mara. Of course, “The Deer Hunter”, “Coming Home” and “Jacob’s Ladder” are superior when it comes to films that handle the topic about PTSD. Maybe the story confuses. Perhaps it was an attempt to represent the psyche of such a person. The call to provide such help to those who suffer from PTSD is well-founded. But lets not forget about all those other individuals who go through a similar thing due to a different kind of traumatic experience.

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