I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
Afghanistan’s Helmand province is a harsh, bland desert: all one dun color, nothing to distract the eye or the mind. And in 2006, it is a place of intense boredom punctuated by intense terror for one small British army patrol, ostensibly onsite to support the Afghan army against the Taliban, but in actuality… well, these guys wonder just why they’re there at all. This feature debut from writer-director Tom Petch is a rough experience, bracingly free of the usual macho posturing that characterizes movies about the military, which makes the slow breakdown of what had barely passed for discipline to begin with all the more affecting: these are real men, not war machines. As their mission morphs from a three-day patrol to ten days, and then beyond, coping by trading insults with one another becomes worrying about whether the lack of resupply means they’ll run out of bullets — or starve — and then even more profound worry when a resupply finally showing up means they’re stuck in their remote patch of rock and sand for who-knows-how-much-longer. How do their leaders maintain cohesion when everyone knows it’s a “shit situation”? (This comes via a voiceover narration by the patrol’s captain [Ben Righton: Doctor Who], clearly being offered in a future interview situation, with ominous hindsight.) The near plotlessness of the film is likely meant to replicate the hurry-up-and-wait military environment and the lack of purpose weighing down its characters, but it is often trying for the viewer, too. Still, this is a compassionate and humane portrait of modern soldiering that makes it look like the slow-motion nightmare that it surely is.