Review: Man Down (2016)


Post traumatic stress syndrome is a very real affliction affecting servicemen and woman in the United States. Films like Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper and Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fouth of July have heavily touched on this topic – even Ron Howard did with 1994’s Forrest Gump. Writer/director Dito Montiel (A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints) decided to tackle this issue directly as the centerpiece of his latest film, Man Down, starring his A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints star Shia LeBeouf who gives an excellent performance in an otherwise muddled and somewhat misguided film.


LeBeouf stars as Gabriel Drummer, a dedicated father and husband, who enlists in the military alongside his close friend Devin Roberts (Jai Courtney). During their tour, the marines encounter an incident which changes their lives forever and one that Drummer wraps his mind around as the basis for his dissociated, schizophrenic manifestation of PTSD.

You can’t say much more about Man Down without really spoiling the film; which is a disservice to the exceptionally strong performance that LeBeouf gives opposite Gary Oldman’s military psychiatrist character Captain Peyton. The scenes LeBeoud has opposite Charlie Shotwell, who plays his son Jonathan, are also very real and belie the actor that LeBeouf has matured into this year. Much like his outstanding performance in American Honey, his performance is in the middle of a movie that is difficult to describe and sit through as a viewer. Montiel’s artistic choices in choosing to depict PTSD as a post-apocalyptic wasteland really hurt the film in this reviewer’s opinion. Moreover, the film’s denouement heavily borrows from other films, most notably Jim Sheridan’s Brothers and David Fincher’s Fight Club.

Man Down aims to be an original and thoughtful examination of veterans’ issues upon coming home, but its ham-fisted approach and artistic ambitions ultimately muddle its message and make it a chore to really get behind as a picture.