REVIEW: Man Down

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Review by Dustin Heller

Man Down is the new war drama starring Shia LaBeouf and directed by Dito Montiel.  Montiel and LaBeouf first worked together on the film A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints where LaBeouf played a young version of Dito Montiel.  The director’s other works include some pretty good indie titles such as Fighting, Empire State, and Boulevard.  Alongside LaBeouf, the film stars  Kate MaraGary OldmanJai Courtney and Jose Pablo CantilloMan Down is rated R for some disturbing violence, and language throughout.

Gabriel Drummer (LaBeouf) has returned home from a horrific tour in Afghanistan to find that his family is lost and America has become a battlefield of its own.  Accompanied by his lifelong friend and fellow Marine Devin (Courtney), Gabriel scours the wasteland that he once called home in search of his son.  All the while, we are shown through flashbacks the events that brought him to this place, from boot camp, to preparing to leave for tour and finally through his debriefing just before being sent home.   As he searches for his family and fights to survive, we begin to realize that perhaps not all is as it seems.

As the end credits of the film began to roll, it felt like I just had my heart ripped out of my chest.  Man Down is a truly powerful film with a tour de force performance (and perhaps the best of his career) from Shia LaBeouf.  I didn’t have any knowledge of the film prior to my screening, and I’d have to say that I was a little confused for the first half hour or so as to what I was actually watching.

The beginning almost felt like a made for television movie, but did just enough to pull me in.  The film jumps back and forth quite a bit on different timelines, but really comes together for an epic conclusion.  I will say this, the less you know about the film before seeing it, the better.  The element of surprise is executed brilliantly.

I am a huge fan of Shia LaBeouf, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my doubts about this film, but by the end I realized that I will never doubt his choice of roles ever again.  That’s not say that he won’t ever make another bad movie, but he is very selective in the roles he chooses and I think he has exceptional taste.  Man Down is without question one of the best films I’ve seen all year and I’d highly recommend it to everyone.

Grade:  A

Man Down opens in theaters on Friday, December 2