Hopelessly depressive and poorly edited across multiple timelines, ‘Man Down’ is a film that could have been a good commentary about PTSD but instead is a confusing, brief mess. The incessant need to jump between the past, future and everywhere in between drowns the film’s more emotional moments as you struggle to keep up, and ultimately care, about what’s happening.
The story follows Marine Gabriel Drummer (Shia LeBeouf) as he suffers both personal and professional trauma that causes him to eventually succumb to post traumatic stress disorder. As he returns home from Afghanistan, he is accompanied by his best friend Devin Roberts (Jai Courtney) and together they search for the whereabouts of Gabriel’s son and wife. The story itself chops and changes with fast edits between key areas in Gabriel’s life. Before he joins the army, training for the Marines, a counselling session, on tour in Afghanistan and present day in a post-apocalyptic setting of America.
My biggest issue with the story comes from the unnecessary need to try and “fancy” up the edits by playing the story out of sequence between the different time periods. In the space of fifteen minutes the film gleefully jumps between four or five different locales which ultimately prevents any sort of tension or emotion from growing as you feel on edge – read to jump to another location. I had real issues becoming emotionally attached to any of the characters because of this, despite some pretty decent acting from LeBeouf.
It bothers me that the blatant need to hide the “big twists” at the end of the film ironically hides the film’s narrative about veterans going unheard and ignored. This should be a decent commentary about the overwhelming stress these brave men and women have to endure after serving time in the army but instead the film fails to hit the mark.
Of course, its very easy for me to sit here and criticise the work of an editor or anyone else involved in making a film but it does baffle me that the simple job of telling a story from A to B is made all the more difficult by throwing the time stream all over the place and it brings absolutely nothing to this film.
Overall, ‘Man Down’ was a frustrating one for me to watch because behind the questionable editing, the average story and okay acting, there is a message here to bring more attention to veterans but its lost in its own egotistical need to make something “arty” and confusing than coherent and emotional and that, for me, is a real shame.