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A brilliant concept limited only by mediocre acting
To be quite honest, the film is not perfect. But even when it fails on a professional level, it still manages to affect the viewer on a human level, and that I believe is the mark of its potential. Now as America plunges once again into war with Iraq, the film's sentiments speak more boldy than ever. We did not learn our lesson the first time. Let me start with what I disliked about the film, this being primarily the acting. Gianvito spends a good deal of time focusing on the thoughts and fears of the film's three lead characters. Because he is so careful to script these parts into touching human drama, it is unfortunate the acting falls through completely at some of its most important moments. I am reminded of Charlie Sheen in Platoon. Like Platoon, the dialogue here is deep, thoughtful, and occasionally shocking, but the actors say it as flat lines rather than breathing life and heart into it. Interestingly enough, in his cameo role, Gianvito seemed far more authentic than the leads, pulling off one line in particular to a student's father that could easily have fallen flat. Fernanda's caring friend and the old woman who takes the homeless boy under her wing are also played meaningfully and full of conviction. My only major issue with the story itself is the use of drugs and sex to portray the soldier's downward spiral. Drugs, especially, seem to pop up in any movie that requires a character to descend quickly into misery. It can be argued that this was a true occurence among those returning from war, but then why shoot the scene as a hyper-erotic scene of promiscuous sex. The sins of indulgence have become a staple of independent cinema and it's sad to see a film as good as this one bearing these trappings. On the other hand, I was completely absorbed by the docu-drama feel of the film. The shots of children obsessed with G.I. Joe, patriotic apparel, and Desert Storm-themed fireworks gave rise to a sick realization that as a child I had been the same way. And it all felt so innocent back then. The soldiers depicted with guns blazing seemed like comic pictures, not reality. I was also impressed that a large amount of the more successful dialogue is shot interview style. This reinforces and enhanced the stock footage used to show world events. The cinematography of the film is spell-binding. Vast Southwestern landscapes of sandstone and prairie grass stretch out to the infinite blue skies. The characters are shot at long distances, like ants. One scene concerning protestors who burn an effigy, turns into a demonic spectacle that managed to scare me more effectively than any horror film I've viewed in the last couple years. All in all, I have to argue that Gianvito created a concept that was completely original, poignant and significant to both my generation and his own, and limited only by his budget and his reliance on mediocre actors. I sincerely hope that Gianvito is able to gather together enough funding to shoot another film that can incorporate a higher degree of acting.
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