A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that war drama Man Down is intended to draw attention to the PTSD-related problems suffered by soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan; many become homeless or attempt suicide. Despite this clear message, the movie is pretty muddled, and although powerful at times, it's mostly off-putting. Expect quite a bit of strong war violence, with characters -- including women and children -- shot and killed. There's fighting, shooting, and explosions, and a boy is in peril. Suicide is discussed. Language is also very strong, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," and more. An extramarital affair is implied, and there's some sexual innuendo; plus, a woman is shown in her bra and underwear.
What's the story?
In MAN DOWN, which is told out of sequence, Gabriel Drummer (Shia LaBeouf) and his best pal, Devin (Jai Courtney), join the Marines. They survive basic training, and then it's time for Gabriel to ship out to Afghanistan -- Devin will be staying behind for a while due to a broken arm. Overseas, Gabriel is involved in a brutal, haunting incident that results in several deaths; he later meets with a psychiatrist (Gary Oldman) to discuss his feelings, but he leaves feeling distraught. Later, Gabriel and Devin seem to be looking among some abandoned ruins for the former's missing wife (Kate Mara) and son (Charlie Shotwell). But Gabriel could be suffering from extreme PTSD; could his state of mind be in question?
Is it any good?
This war drama contains an earnest plea, a call for sympathy and understanding for soldiers suffering from PTSD; but the movie is so scattershot, somber, and confusing that it never comes together. Director Dito Montiel is also a novelist, and he likes to tell stories about complex, urban men. But sometimes his ambition exceeds his reach, and his movies end up overly serious and a little one-dimensional. Man Down has the double-edged misfortune of being simultaneously simplistic and complex.
The jumbled, out-of-sequence story has individual pieces that might have worked if they'd been fleshed out, especially the scenes with Oldman as a Marine therapist or the ones of martial strife between Gabriel and his wife. But the "looking for his son among the ruins" sequences are puzzling for a long time ... until a big "surprise reveal," which seems misguided for a movie this severe. Meanwhile, LaBeouf gives an intense, sometimes treacherous performance.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Man Down's war violence. How does it compare to the violence you've seen in other movies? Do different types of violence have different impact?
How does the movie convey its message about PTSD? What did you learn about it? What can be done?
Why do you think Gabriel resists talking further to the psychiatrist? What keeps people from expressing their feelings?
How does this movie compare to others about the Iraq/Afghanistan war experience?
What is Gabriel's relationship with his son like? How well do they communicate? Is there anything left unsaid?
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