A squad of soldiers tries to rebuild a small Iraqi village's
water distribution system in the middle of a war zone.
Sand Castle (2017)
Directed by Fernando Coimbra
Written by Chris Roessner
Starring Nicholas Hoult, Logan Marshall-Green, Henry Cavill,
Neil Brown Jr., Beau Knapp, Glen Powell, Gonzalo Menendez, Sammy Sheik, Tommy Flanagan
The biggest problem with Sand Castle is that I feel like I've seen this story a thousand times before. The film doesn't have a strong enough narrative structure to maintain interest, but it tries to fool you into thinking it does by using "sound bite" dialogue that sounds significant, but really isn't. Despite a host of strong performances and realistic characters, the dull script, the uneven pace, and the poor storytelling keep this Iraq War drama from reaching its full potential.
Nicholas Hoult plays Private Matt Ocre, a nervous young man who entered the Army Reserves for college money two months before 9/11. Now stuck in Baghdad, he tries to injure himself to get sent back home. When his attempt fails, he rolls out with his squad. The first act leads you to believe that his film is Private Ocre's story, but his narration and character focus disappears as soon as they reach the village. At this point, the film's focus turns to the squad of soldiers, which has been done so many times in so many different time periods. I'm not saying camaraderie among soldiers isn't interesting or necessary for character development. I'm simply stating that it can't be the only basis for it. Sand Castle uses this as its only form of character interaction and by the film's end, I still know virtually nothing about them.
Sand Castle wants to be the antiwar movie, but it shows that war is a necessary evil that will occur no matter what human beings do for each other. Instead of showing the negative effects of war on civilians, Sand Castle implies that war was happening in Iraq before America ever got involved and it will continue after we leave. Whether or not this is an accurate statement is irrelevant. It's just not a very good point for an antiwar film to inadvertently make.