HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Man Down
HTS Overall Score:72
There’s no doubt that PTSD is very serious issue in soldiers returning from combat. Especially in a time when we’re more sensitive to their condition and it’s no longer left undiagnosed for so long. I’m very passionate about our veterans and the way that they’re treated as I have half my family (and extended family) in differing branches, and even have a brother who suffers from it after being sent home from Iraq. I even actually like Shia LaBeouf as an actor when he’s not playing the role of bored, eccentric rich kid when he’s in between acting gigs, so “Man Down” was definitely something I wanted to check out form the description. Instead of capitalizing on the rawness of soldiers coming back from a long war in Iraq and tying it to the media storm of issues that returning vets are undergoing, “Man Down” squanders it all on a fractured storyline mixed with a sort of “sci-fi” delusion that’s going on in the main character’s head, leaving us with a feeling of frustration and missed opportunity.
“Man Down” is bookended with two iterations of a singular situation. When you’re watching the movie linearly the opening few minutes seems strangely out of place. You see Ex-soldier Gabriel Drummer (Shia LaBeouf) rescuing his son from some post-apocalyptic nightmare, but then we flash directly into the past where we see Gabe getting ready to go to Iraq/Afghanistan. It doesn’t take long for the viewer to realize that this is going to a movie filled with fractured storylines as we jump back and forth between this post-apocalyptic wasteland of America, an incident over in Afghanistan where he was in combat, and the past before deployment. Before deployment we’re privy to Gabe living with his wife Natalie (Kate Mara) and their pre-teen son Jonathon (Charlie Shotwell) and the pain that his leaving is causing Natalie.
Fast forward a little bit and we see glimpses of how Gabe made it through basic training with his lifelong buddy, Devin Roberts (Jai Courtney), a friendship that packs pain on top of more pain later on in the movie. Sandwiched in between the home and wartime drama is Gabe’s interaction with a military psychologist (Gary Oldman, who is MAJORLY tamed down for this film). A psychologist who is trying to peel back the layers of suffering that Gabe is experiencing after some sort of “incident” over in the sandbox. As the film progresses you start to see just what these incidents were and how they affect Gabe in the long run. That is, until the final “shocking” reveal which retells the opening scene with how things ACTUALLY happened, allowing the audience to realize the actual effects that wartime had on this soldier’s psyche.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=92890[/img]The biggest flaw that “Man Down” has is the fact that it haphazardly bounces back and forth through 4 different storylines that happen throughout the film, usually centering back on Gabe’s psych evaluation with Gary Oldman. Things get clearer near the end, but you can tell that they were trying to keep you slightly confused so that the end “reveal” would be a shocker (though I had a pretty good inkling about what actually happened if you think about it). I guess it’s supposed to be a representation of how fractured Gabe’s mind really is, letting us sort of float along in the delusions that he keeps active from his time overseas. The thing is, very little of it actually WORKS for the viewer. There’s even an affair between his wife and someone else later on in the film that is supposedly impactful, but in reality, that could have been cut completely and the story would have been none the worse.
I wanted to like “Man Down”, and you can tell that the powers that be had their heart in the right place but the use of PTSD in the movie seems more like a gimmick than an actual tribute to those who suffer in the real world. The big explosive finale kind of amplifies that theory and turns the PTSD into an action oriented joke just dripping with melodrama and over acting. So, while I applaud the effort behind “Man Down”, I can’t really justify giving any real praise to the end product. IT’s trite, cheesy, and filled with more melodrama and platitudes than you can shake a stick at.
Rated R for some disturbing violence, and language throughout
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=92898[/img]I can’t be 100% certain what cameras were used as IMDB Is once again devoid of information, but several places that I’ve seen and a few forums have hinted at the fact that they were Arri Alexa cameras. One of the biggest effects that is used in “Man Down” is the heavy color grading that goes on depending on the time period or storyline that we’re involved in. the post-apocalyptic American wasteland inside of Gabe’s head is VERY desaturated, with slight blue and ash grey as the primary colors. Fine detail is a bit muted, but clarity is still solid enough. Back in the warzone things take on a very sandy tan look, with solid contrast levels and good fine detail. Back home in the states in the “past” things look much more natural, with Gabe taking his son to school and bright sunny afternoons. The boot camp days looks a bit more blue with muted colors, although it’s not nearly as blatant as the post-apocalyptic scenes. Black levels vary depending on the time period, and there is some banding that comes and goes throughout.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=92906[/img]For being shot on a shoe string budget and filmed in such a short amount of time, “Man Down” actually has a really impressive audio track. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA experience is really full and rich, with some heavy impacting bass when necessary. The Afghanistan sequences light up the sound stage with some incredible sounding gunfire, and the surrounds are used with heavy aplomb. Back in the states things quiet down a good bit and the dialog takes front and center. Dialog that is still perfectly clean and intelligible no matter the scenario. The post-apocalyptic nightmare actually has some of the better audio cues, with birds chirping in the background, and every little sound that Gabe notices is amplified both in intensity and direction.
• Audio Commentary with Director Dito Montiel and Military Advisor Sergeant Nick Jones Jr.
“Man Down” wants to sucker punch you with a mind blowing “reveal” at the end of the film that will endear the audience to Gabe’s plight, but it ends up just turning it into a Hallmark movie of the year with a wartime scenario instead. I wanted to like “Man Down”, I really did, but Dito Montiel has directed a rather slap dash wartime melodrama that spent way too much time trying to confuse the viewer with smoke and mirror time shifts in order to protect his big finale, that he ended up creating a mess of a film that just doesn’t have the impact that he was gearing up for. The audio and video are the best part of the package, so for those who are considering a purchase you can rest assured that he Blu-ray looks and sounds great. The extras are a bit weak, and the movie just as weak, which makes me give this one a thumbs down if I were you.
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Jai Courtney, Gary Oldman, Kate Mara
Directed by: Dito Montiel
Written by: Adam G. Simon
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 92 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 7th, 2017
Buy Man Down On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Skip It
More about Mike