Hot Take: It’s 60 minutes too long… and it’s only 90 minutes.
At the 51 minute mark of Man Down, I looked down at my watch and thought, “Nothing has happened.” It’s a bit of an overstatement but, outside of a solid performance from Shia LaBeouf as Gabriel Drummer (a name I had to look up because I sincerely don’t remember hearing his name mentioned in the film), Man Down is a colossal waste of time.
Sure, there’s a message here that needs to be heard but there’s a good chance audiences will tune out at some point. LaBeouf carries the film with his performance. The rest of the cast is capable (well, except for Jai Courtney who will remind you why you wish Hollywood would lose his number) but there’s a wooden quality to the other performances that leave you with the feeling you are watching performers go through the motions.
As for the story, the film begins in post-Apocalyptic America and the plot is unraveled in a convoluted flashback/flashforward/”flash-all-around” style that seems to attempt to disorient the viewer and throw off catching on to what is happening on the screen. Man Down tries to show LaBeouf’s Drummer and his experience becoming a Marine interspersed with how it impacts his family while occasionally showing us the post-Apocalyptic America he has apparently come back to but there’s really not much explanation as to what or why that is happening. It also takes us to Afghanistan where Drummer is deployed and takes us through a traumatic incident with a little (emphasis on little) help from a Marine counselor played by Gary Old man. Any moviegoer who has seen more than 10 of these movies with this style will likely figure out where the story is headed.
What director and co-writer Dito Montiel tries to do is make Man Down deliver a poignant message about PTSD and its impact on our soldiers. It’s also an ode to forgotten Veterans who come back from fighting for our country to very little options to continue a normal, functioning life. Unfortunately, this message gets muddled in an attempt to manipulate the audience into feeling an emotional response to what is unfolding on the screen. By the end, you may be so far removed from the story, you’re ready to move on from Man Down and give it very little thought once the credits roll.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
Man Down lacks consistency but LaBeouf is the exception to this as his portrayal of a tormented Marine who joined the Corps due to lack of options is better than the film. That’s not hard to accomplish here but considering some of LaBeouf’s previous efforts, this is worth mentioning.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Is Jai Courtney the Worst Actor in Hollywood Right Now?
He’d get a lot of consideration from this reviewer and Man Down doesn’t hurt his claim to the title.
- Unnecessary Subplots
There are a couple of subplots that appear out of thin air and feel completely unnecessary. Without giving away details, the experience of being in Afghanistan is enough stress to push a soldier over the edge. Adding family stress to the equation feels like an unnecessary pile on and more manipulative than anything.