“Man Down” 2015 – Shia LeBeouf, Kate Mara, Jai Courtney and Gary Oldman
Directed by: Dito Montiel
Some actors are known for more than acting such as drug problems, amorous conquests, tirades and bizarre behavior. Once such actor may be Shia LeBeouf and the wife and I don’t normally watch movies with actors of that ilk. There is plenty of drama in our little corner of the world we do not need to import any. Say what one may about LeBeouf’s personal reputation one cannot deny the quality of his work in this movie.
Lebeouf (American Honey, Fury) is Gabriel Drummer who along with his childhood friend Devin Roberts (Jai Courtney, Suicide Squad, Terminator Genisys) become Marines and ship off to the Middle East. Staying behind with patience and dedication is LeBeouf’s son and wife Natalie Drummer (Kate Mara, Morgan, The Martian).
Reviews of the movie use phrases like “post-apocalyptic America,” and “home… no better than the battlefields he fought on overseas.” The wife and I do not watch apocalypse, zombie or gore movies so we chose this movie with a healthy dose of suspicion. We have seen so many stinkers we were sure we would survive one more. We were wrong.
The movie shifts to and fro between what has happened and what IS happening. Drummer and Roberts do return to an America that is unrecognizable and they stick together to search for Drummer’s wife Natalie and Drummer’s son. We see an America that is foreign and even hostile looking and it is on occasion difficult to reconcile what we see as the movie switches between yesterday and today. As the story moves back and forth between then and now, we see Drummer preparing for a court martial after a shooting incident he was involved in. In between Drummer’s memories of the shooting he and Roberts search the remnants of their former home for Drummer’s family. The shooting incident is central to the story and it acts as an emotional disaster, an eruption that splits Drummer in two. For the rest of the picture he is struggling to gain his footing in either one world or the other without falling into the chasm between the two.
As mundane as the sessions may be, Drummer’s conversations with Naval officer Captain Peyton (Gary Oldman, The Space Between Us, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) it is a perfect canvas for LeBeouf and Oldman to delight us with flawlessly wrought performances. LeBeouf is seething and trembling beneath a fragile exterior in a hard-fought battle for his sanity. Captain Peyton is helping Drummer but we get the feeling Peyton is doing it not so much out of a desire to help but because it is his job. Unfortunately for Drummer, he seems to need more than just government-issue help. “Does he get it,” you ask. That would provide the ending and we do not do that here.
We also do not offer commentary of any kind, not religious or political and we are sure our readers appreciate it. Still, watching this movie one cannot help but be concerned about the condition of service men and women who come home with scars we cannot see and wounds that may take decades to heal, if they ever do. LeBeouf’s portrayal of a soldier with wounds that only another warrior can understand is so touching and painful the movie is worth watching if just for those moments. It must be especially trying for an actor to convey pain and anguish viewers cannot see and not overdo it in the process. LeBeouf if stunning in his portrayal of a husband, a father, a friend and a soldier who is now so hopelessly shattered he cannot recognize the pieces of himself.
The end of this movie will hit you like and artillery shell in the gut and that makes it all worthwhile. Man Down is more than the title and in the movie it has more than one meaning just as it will, if and when you should decide to take the time to see it.
We say: Watch It!