Going to the Venice Film Festival was always a dream of mine. I never, in a million years, would have thought I could go. I was lucky enough to not only go but get tickets for a viewing of the Dito Montiel film Man Down. There will be some major spoilers below.
Man Down stars Shia LaBeouf as Gabriel, Kate Mara as his wife Natalie, Jai Courtney (Swoon) as Devin, and Gary Oldman as Captain Peyton. The movie takes place in several different time periods. The beginning starts off with Gabriel and Devin roaming the streets trying to find Gabriel's wife and son. It seems to be some type of post-apocalyptic United States. We don't know what happened, we just know that something went very wrong. The special effects and cinematography are so lovely and haunting at the same time. Dito uses a lovely gray effect that makes everything seem foggy and in a haze. It reflects the confusion in the characters minds very well.
Another section of the movie focuses on typical day to day life for Gabriel before everything changed. We see Gabriel and Natalie raising their son. We see the day to day life of helping your kids deal with bullies, to wives worrying about their husbands. It's so fantastically human.
Gabriel and Devin go off to train and then off to war. We see them fighting for their lives in the dessert. Then it flashes to an office with Gary Oldman playing Captain Peyton. He is talking to Gabriel about the events during his last tour. We find out that Captain Peyton is there to help Gabriel talk through everything. SPOILERS.......
We find out that Devin was shot in an attack and Gabriel feels responsible because he didn't check the room. He is also traumatized because it was a mother and son who shot Devin and then Gabriel shot them. We see that Captain Peyton is trying to help but he really only offers medication and slight counseling for assistance.
Flash back to Gabriel heading home and finding out that Devin and Natalie had an affair while Gabriel is over seas. We slowly see Gabriel start to mentally fall apart......
We see that the post-apocalyptic world is all made up in Gabriel's mind. Devin has been dead for months, he was killed from the gun shot wound. Gabriel is living is a fantasy world within our own real world. He tries to kidnap his son and doesn't realize that his wife is his wife. He thinks she is the woman he shot.
The movie ends in a blaze of glory and gun fire. It's beautiful, tragic and very real.
The stand out performances in the film are Jai Courtney and Gary Oldman. Jai plays this character that give everything for his friend. We see that he loves Gabriel's family like they were blood. He brilliant and intense. He scared me in the best possible way an actor can. I never knew what he would do next.
Gary Oldman is brilliant all the time and this film was no acceptation. He had a smaller role in this film but it was so important. He had to play a character that was both caring but harsh and blunt. Peyton was there to find the truth. He was a one man good cop/ bad cop show. Gary is an actor who can act with his eyes. His eyes can tell you more of the emotion of his character than words can. He displayed every emotion possible but in a very calculated manner. I was impressed with his acting ability.
Now don't get me wrong, Shia and Kate were great. Kate wasn't given a ton to work with but she did well in her moments. Shia plays Shia well. It was a character we have seen before up until the end. His performance at the end of the film really hits the emotion hard. It was refreshing to see him dig a little deeper than we have seen in his mainstream performances.
I wouldn't call the movie a military bashing movie. I would say that it is trying to bring attention to a subject that gets swept under the rug a lot. Is the military taking care of those that fight for them before and after they are in the force? I have my opinions on that and I'm sure you do as well. I'm not here to push my opinions but I am urging you to think and act. This movie is a call to arms in America. Keep in mind, I saw this film in Venice with an Italian audience.
As the lights went up, people cheered. They clapped and I saw grown men weep. I was lucky enough to watch the film with Dito and Shia in the room. Dito was very cool and gave me a big hug. Nice guy. I thanked him for making a movie that ripped my American heart out and made me think.
If you have an opportunity to watch this film, I suggest you try it. You might love it, you might hate it. It's not a film for everyone. It will evoke strong emotions in you.