Is there an issue with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Of course there is, and it needs to be addressed. Is there a potential for family issues when a solider comes back to his family from the war front? Yes, and it can be quite severe. Is the best way to present these problems wrapped up in a movie that cannot decide if it is a serious look at the situation, or an overly dramatized version of the warrior’s mental disconnect?
That is “Man Down”, which follows the solider named Gabriel Drummer (Shia LaBeouf) who is married to Natalie (Kate Mara) and has a young son named Jonathan (Charlie Shotwell). He joins the Marines with his best friend Devin (Jai Courtney). Gabe gets sent to Afghanistan, while Devin recovers from an injury back in the States. Devin soon joins him over there in the thick of the nasty action.
Later, Gabe has a sit-down session with Captain Peyton (Gary Oldman) about ‘the incident’. It is finally revealed that a mistake by Gabe led to an ambush attack that had killed Devin. But then, later on when Gabe is back with his family, Gabe shuns his wife and his son to hang around with Devin. Eventually Gabe and Devin prowl about the bleak apocalyptic landscape for his son. But Devin did not make it back…
The late Devin is Gabe’s closest friend and Gabe’s metal state is in question. Captain Peyton talked with Gabe about his reaction to ‘the incident’, and Gabe is still in denial. So now Gabe and Devin are searching a destroyed cityscape searching for his son. They meet a guy named Charlie (Clifton Collins Jr.) who says he knows nothing. But there are many clues that he knows Gabe’s son, and where he might be hiding.
But how much of Gabe’s post-war travels with Devin are real? Exactly what happened in ‘the incident’? And what happened back on the home front between Devin and Kate, when Gabe was deployed overseas? Does Captain Peyton know how broken Gabe is on the inside?
Any of these questions could be enough to construct a deep and meaningful movie. But the way that the various incidents and episodes are put together on the screen make a little too jumbled. The connection between the bleak deserted place and the happy home front does get revealed, and it is done in a very subtle way. But the various sequences do not seem to tie up as neatly as they should.
Shia LaBeouf does a workable job as Gabe. He is mostly very understated, but then at some points he is a little bit overemotional and melodramatic. Kate Mara and Jai Courtney have very cookie-cutter roles, and they do the best that they can. Gary Oldman puts some empathy into his character and makes a very good impression. Clifton Collins Jr. has a brief role, but is creepy and odd-ball as that character.
A movie a few years back about the mental tribulations of John Nash was called ‘A Beautiful Mind’. This movie might be called ‘A FUBAR Mind’. That would describe the nightmare of delusions that Gabe finds himself in during the movie. It is truly scary place to be. But is might not be the best way to bring attention to the real problems of soldiers.