Man Down

Man Down

In Theatres: 
Dec 02, 2016
Running Time: 
92 minutes

There’s no doubt that war takes a massive toll on soldiers and the people surrounding them. Lives can be lost, families can be splintered, and minds can be broken. Film often captures the brutality of war, but rarely does it focus on its aftermath. Man Down attempts to shine a light on how PTSD affects the men and women returning home, but does so in a convoluted manner that lessens its impact. It has the right message, just the wrong execution.


Gabriel Drummer (Shia LaBeouf) has returned home from Afghanistan only to find that the city has been destroyed and people everywhere are gone. He then sets out with his best friend and Marine partner Devin (Jai Courtney) to find his wife, Natalie (Kate Mara), and son, Johnny (Charlie Shotwell). Meanwhile, flashbacks show the events leading up to him joining the military along with what happened while in combat. Eventually all the storylines fall into place to reveal that the world Gabriel sees might not match up with reality, and that he’s in desperate need of help before it all falls apart.


Man Down’s biggest problem lies with its narrative structure. I can recount at least five different time periods the film jumps back and forth to. There’s Gabriel’s time at home before joining the military, boot camp training, the “incident,” his conversation with Captain Peyton (Gary Oldman) following that, and then two versions of him returning home. The film jumps from one section to another in a seemingly random fashion with no care about the overall story.


It’s easy to see where the story goes way before the so-called big reveal, too. Even watching the trailer alone gives you a good idea of what to expect. The ending feels so rushed that it’s difficult to fully grasp its impact. Instead, audiences are just given some brief text about how PTSD can affect soldiers coming home. It’s all rather disappointing.


That  being said, I still applaud Shia LaBeouf for giving a solid performance. The scenes between him and Gary Oldman are particularly strong, and I wish the film had focused more on them, with a few flashbacks to what went down during the mission. LaBeouf clearly has the ability to give an emotional performance. It’s unfortunate that everything else overshadows it.


Overall, Man Down is overly complex and oftentimes confusing storyline make it an unfortunate mess that leads into a lackluster ending. The film has good intentions, and I applaud its effort to bring more attention to PTSD. That still doesn’t make it a good movie, however.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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