Blu-ray Review: Man Down

By , Contributor
Director Dito Montiel's Man Down received a bad rap from critics during its late-2016 theatrical run, but hopefully it'll be given a second chance at home (the Blu-ray is now available). Working from a screenplay by Adam G. Simon, Montiel has crafted a decidedly unpleasant, uncomfortable film—which is exactly why it needs to be seen. Man Down presents a story about post-traumatic stress disorder. Tracking the wartime and post-war experiences of U.S. Marine Gabriel Drummer (Shia LaBeouf), Montiel does his best to take us inside a damaged mind. LaBeouf is sensational in a restrained, incisive performance that further proves his often-doubted value as a leading man.

Events unfold in disorienting fashion as we meet Gabriel, his wife Natalie (Kate Mara), and their son Jonathan (Charlie Shotwell). Nothing is as it seems in Gabriel's world, be it his interactions with best friend and fellow solider Devin (Jai Courtney) or his personal family life. Postwar America appears to be an apocalyptic wasteland, at least from Gabriel's perspective. We're placed inside his mind, which leads us down detours that don't easily fit into narrative perspective. The more that's revealed about Gabriel's experiences, the less we can trust anything onscreen. It's not hard to see why this fractured approach to storytelling would be rejected by many mainstream moviegoers. It's confusing and diametrically opposed to typical Hollywood structure. Go with it and experience a challenging approach to character study (and an effective "twist" in the third act that ties things together).

Lionsgate's Blu-ray does a commendable job handling the highly stylized cinematography of Shelly Johnson. Much of the film is deliberately soft and gauzy, which results in a bit of a jarring viewing experience until you get used to it. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix packs some visceral jolts when the story calls for it. The score by Clint Mansell (Black Swan) is prominently featured to good effect. Special features are light, with only an audio commentary track by director Dito Montiel (joined by Military Advisor Sergeant Nick Jones Jr.).

Man Down is ultimately a depressing experience, but it offers an earnest, skillful stab at dealing with a very important issue.

 
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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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