TV Review - Sand Castle

I wrote about Doug Liman's The Wall, which was a film based on a script that was on the Black List in Hollywood. Amazon produced the movie. It's about a U.S. soldier in the Iraq War in 2007. Most people who analyze the business side of movies see Amazon and Netflix as rivals when the better comparison would be Netflix to HBO or Hulu, but, be that as it may, Netflix purchased a film that also started out on the Black List and that's also about a U.S. soldier in the Iraq War but in 2003. Both deal with the same or similar themes.

In my review of The Wall, I surmised that the tone of it is almost the opposite of Clint Eastwood's American Sniper, which was very jingoistic and existed only to make a hero out of its protagonist. The Wall exists to cast doubt, fear and guilt onto its main character. This movie feels like it's on a continuum between Eastwood and Liman. Director Fernando Coimbra is the helmsman here and he strikes a perfect balance of patriotism and culpability with compassion. Coimbra also doesn't mire his film with Eastwood's xenophobia or Liman's futility and forlorn sense.

This movie starts similarly as Jarhead, which was a memoir by Anthony Swofford. This movie was written by Chris Roessner who isn't adapting a memoir or doing anything autobiographical, but Roessner did base the story on his experiences as a machine gunner in Iraq's Sunni Triangle.

Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class and Mad Max: Fury Road) stars as Matt Ocre, a Swofford-type who signs up for the army reserves in order to earn money for college. He doesn't really want to fight. He isn't all that motivated for revenge because of 9/11. He doesn't have some instinct to flex his muscle and show his machismo due to raging testosterone or the need to prove something, which isn't the case for all the other young men around him.

Despite his wishes, he's sent to the Sunni Triangle when the Iraq War begins in 2003. Matt is taken aback by the American bravado over death and destruction. He also doesn't join in what is the frat boy mentality that his unit embraces. He wants to leave and not be a part of it until his unit is assigned to Camp Warhorse, which is located just outside of Baqubah.

In Baqubah, his mission isn't to shoot at things or blow things up. His mission is the opposite. It's to build something up. Matt's unit has to assist the repair of the pumping station, which provides the people of Baqubah with water. Right now, the people are cut-off. Until the pumping station is fixed, Matt's unit has to transport water by tanker truck, a convoy that takes hours each way.

Matt becomes really connected to this mission. It's tedious and frustrating, but it's obvious that people through no fault of their own are in need of water. In fact, the war, which America started, has cut these people off from water, so Matt feels a responsibility to help them. Things get even more tedious and frustrating when insurgents begin attacking Matt's unit and convoy.

Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus and The Invitation) co-stars as Staff Sgt. Harper, the leader of Matt's unit who is like Matt in that he doesn't have that machismo but unlike Matt, he wants to be there. He sees the value and importance before Matt does and he isn't as quick to give up and go home. He's a gentle warrior, meaning he's tough and strong but in a quiet way.

Glen Powell (The Expendables 3 and Hidden Figures) also co-stars as Sgt. Dylan Chutsky, the opposite of Harper in the regard of being quiet. He's loud and brash, practically sassy but in an uber-macho manner.

Other notable cast members include Neil Brown Jr. (Straight Outta Compton) who plays Enzo, the black member of the unit and comic relief. Sammy Sheik (American Sniper and Lone Survivor) plays Mahmoud, the Iraqi translator for the unit. Parker Sawyers (Southside With You) plays Sgt. Robinson, the soldier in charge of fixing the pumping station.

Henry Cavill (Man of Steel and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) also co-stars as Captain Syverson, the Special Forces soldier who is the highest ranked guy here. He is steadfast in accomplishing the mission but he is probably the least compassionate person. He probably has the least respect for the Iraqis who don't help when he and Harper try to negotiate for labor to fix the pumping station.

It is great performances from Cavill and the rest of the cast that make this film one I would put along side some of the best war movies. Hoult is incredible and really is rising as a movie-star who hopefully will start getting awards recognition soon.

Rated TV-MA.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 53 mins.

Available on Netflix.


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