Sand Castle, 2017
Signed up the 28/03/2017
Sand Castle is a war drama following the life of a young machine gunner (played by X-Men's Nicholas Hoult) whose anything but interested in serving his country. He does his part out of duty and what's expected of him as a young man from a family of men who have been down this very dark, though honourable, path; unlike most of his troop fellows who seem to each have some sort of purpose.
The movie will not go down in history alongside greats like Apocalypse Now and Saving Private Ryan, but it does serve its purpose. As a platoon is sent out to a dangerous village in Baghdad, we're afforded a more personal look at the everyday life of soldiers. These soldiers are people, they're scared and they mostly just want to go home no matter how brave they are. We get to explore both interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships of the characters, and perhaps that's what sold me. I'm a sucker for a good, compassionate story about a troubled soldier- especially if they're conscientious. As a war film buff myself, I've watched a lot helluva lot of great war films, which is why I can appreciate the fresh air that this little Netflix commentary on the genre brings. All war movies, no matter how great, have a similar template and I couldn't help but appreciate this movie being brave enough to take a different route.
The film plays the same way as The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2017 Oscars Sound nominee-though revoked due to campaign regulation violations). Though it isn't memorable enough to dream of securing an Oscar of any sort, it is an enticing little documentary about how Americans and Iraqis relate to each other. It does have intense and redeeming moments where you get hopeful that it is starting to pick up the pace, but then the credits start rolling soon after and then you realise why it was probably best that it went straight to streaming instead of doing theater rounds firsts. The film boasts one of the best choreographed and inventive action and ambush sequences I've seen in a war film, but quickly bites its own tail by not going the whole mile.
The film's biggest selling point is Henry Cavill (the current Superman), but his role isn't even big enough to mention. I was suprised by how little his character contributes towards the storyline as Cavill himself and Luke Evans were the two big-name leads that were creating buzz around the title back in 2015-2016 when the flick was announced; Evans went on to drop out of the film completely. This movie does Cavill no justice and I'm not quite sure why his character wasn't written off; or why he chose to go through with- the nice dude he is, he probably didn't want to leave the movie hanging. It's a pity because I was excited to see what more Cavill had to offer apart from being a great Superman; turns out he's not more than a dude who full-times as Lois Lane's lover while saving the world during down time.
Sand Castle as a niche war drama is great, but only if you categorise it as exactly that. Take away "niche" and we have bland, colourless pieces of throw-away documentary montages that we're supposed to look past because Netflix is still finding its feet on their film side. I'll afford the movie a pass in this regard. It isn't all bad, but my question of why the film didn't get much buzz earlier in the year when it was released is glaringly answered. Watch it if you like slow-burners that serve no major purpose than to be what they're able to be for the duration of their run-time.
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