It’s well-known that Dito Montiel is a director who works pretty freely with all the cinematographic matter; at least, you can guess it if you know his free life organization (ex model, artist, boxer, musician and more, as he tells in the autobiographic A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints).
It’s no wonder that his Man Down, presented in Horizons section at the festival, is a complicated and complex mosaic of analepsis and prolepsis, that creates a series of events, at the beginning not linked in a clear way, of Gabriel Drummer’s life (Shia LaBeouf), a young marine who fights in the Afghan frontline and then moved to a post-apocalypse America, looking desperately for his wife Nat (Kate Mara) and their son Jonathan, together with his trusty friend Devin (Jai Courtney), who helps him in this desperate mission.
The movie is based of four distinct narrative lines which intersect: the first is the dialogue between Gabriel and Captain Peyton (Gary Oldman), who’s in charge to evaluate the mental health of the young soldier after a terrible accident happened in the frontline. This event marks the second line, while the other two are about the calm pre-war life of Gabe, who lives happily with his wife and son. The forth is the most mysterious and portrays a destroyed world, where survivors are so few you could count them on the fingers of one hand.
In this desolate context (well portrayed by the dull photography chosen by Shelly Johnson), Gabe and Devin go looking for Nat and Jonathan and only in the last 30 minutes Montiel reveals the connection between this part of the story and the rest of the movie, using an intelligent plot twist.
Montiel’s experiment doesn’t work in its totality, maybe because he imposes too many levels for just 92 minutes, and what is gained in durance is lost in depth. However, the total efficacy of the psychotic spiral lived by Gabriel, supported perfectly by Shia LaBoeuf’s great performance, always aside in every different moment of our protagonist’s life. There’s a lot of potential, maybe not all shown, in Montiel’s move. What strikes the audience is the intelligent management of the parallelism between real war and domestic one, which is the invisible support of a movie in which every moment seems to be a main character’s torment, even the apparently most critical parts. It’s a risky bet, a series of events even so quick that, a first glance, they seem disconnected and that regains a coherence only in the finale, creating a mosaic of parts that are stuck, whose total effect would have used some minutes more in order to gather correctly.
By Gabriele Niola
Photos: Alessio Costantino and Eleonora Agostini
Translation by Bianca Baroni
In collaboration with Badtaste.it