Reviews

The Objective

When the straggling survivors in The Objective learn they are expendable, they are also, much like the Nostromo crew, upset.


The Objective

Director: Daniel Myrick
Cast: Jonas Ball, Matthew R. Anderson, Chems-Eddine Zinoune, Jon Huertas, Michael C. Williams
MPAA rating: N/A
Studio: IFC Films
First date: 2008
US Release Date: 2009-02-06 (Limited release)
Website

Editor’s note: The Objective is part of IFC's "In Theaters + On Demand" programming, available on demand as of 6 February.

Assuming that Dick Cheney is in fact Darth Vader, the premise of The Objective hardly seems farfetched. That premise, an alien invasion of earth by way of Afghanistan, U.S. military shenanigans, and a CIA cover-up, is also not especially new, or scary, or compelling.

The film begins with a weary voiceover by one CIA operative, Benjamin Keynes (Jonas Ball). He's headed back to Afghanistan, he laments, where he notes "we" were fighting the mujahedeen during the '80s (though if he means that literally, he was on leave from elementary school at the time). Now, as his chopper heads toward the Moroccan rocky mountains passing for the Ghazni Province in November 2001, he says that while the Agency is worried that a "radioactive heat signature" means the Taliban has a nuclear device, he knows better. Or different, anyway: he has information from a trustworthy source named Muhammad that the source "may be something much more powerful."

This something is associated immediately with the brutality of the landscape (wind, heat, sand, and rough terrain) and the grimacey distrust from his new teammates, a U.S. special forces unit with the usual array of gnarly types. These are introduced summarily -- with name and thumbnail description -- by the CO, Hamer (Matthew R. Anderson), who makes clear his instant and righteous misgivings regarding any civilian-directed mission. His is a "shit hot team, you won't find any better," he boasts, as the man with the baby on the way is plainly marked as the first dead meat character and the good-humored medic (Jon Huertas) is set up as the one we'll miss most of all.

The men look askance at Keynes as they all board a chopper bound for… hell. This point is underscored frequently by the recording device he brings along, which reframes POV images in a red-lit, demonic register, and by the helpful commentary of these hard and tough men, who repeatedly call their new environs "hell." Almost as soon as they're deposited in the desert, they run into a mysterious, ingeniously low-budget effect -- chopper sounds without a visual and, soon enough, a body splatted on a rock, insides out. "Somebody's trying to fuck with us!" ascertains one of the guys. Indeed, nods another, their unseen opponents are "Fuckin' savages."

All this hubbub, occurring within two or three minutes, sets up the film's relentless and deeply uninteresting pattern: the men encounter an inexplicable phenomenon, they shoot a bit and curse their luck, lose one of their number, then discuss what just happened, to the best of their ability. Keynes maintains a Marlow-like distance from the team, his voiceover mimicking the somber tones of Martin Sheen's back in Apocalypse Now, but lacking even his meager philosophical weight. The script, group-written by director Daniel Myrick (who brings to bear his Blair Witch experience in a few hand-crafted stick structures looming on shadowy hillsides), Mark Patton, and Wesley Clark, Jr. (whose paternal influence can only be guessed at), is a hodgepodge of horror and war movie clichés, unleavened by the poor production values and unconvincing performances by military vets.

The storyline is bolstered by a legend about "the Hill of Bones," essentially a scary story told one evening, in which an 1842 British regiment goes into a pass with some 16,000 refugees -- and only one survivor emerges. His version of events is sketchy, of course, which means that "what happened" remains unknown, hence Keynes' obsession with recording every step of his current journey, to send back "verifiable proof" to Langley even if he doesn’t make it back himself. When the straggling survivors learn they -- along with their mystical Afghan guide, Abdul (Chems-Eddine Zinoune) -- are expendable in this pursuit of data (again, regarding a likely weapon of "unimaginable power"), they are also, much like the Nostromo crew, upset.

That Keynes rationalizes his deceit and more or less willful ignorance with a mantra of patriotism ("I'm willing to die for my country") is the film's most noteworthy point. When Hamer complains they have been sent on a suicide mission without being apprised ahead of time, Keynes notes, "There is a big difference between suicide and sacrifice." Hamer doesn’t let up: "Truth! That's the fucking difference!" When Keynes submits that his now dead men were patriots, Hamer explodes again. "They were my friends!"

Poor lunkhead. In its fundamental betrayal of Hamer and his men, the bad-CIA-designed mission is consistent with any number of stories that pit the hardworking military against the insidious civilian government. Keynes doesn’t quite embody all the malignancy usually associated with such conniving, as he seems quite completely to have drunk the koolaid, reiterating his belief that his mission is worthy. That his documentation of the mission is, in fact, the mission, is a bit of meta-business that doesn’t work so neatly or immersively as, say, Blair Witch, but it does lead to a better-than-expected ending, which lasts but a minute under the closing credits. His story is not, at last, the story released to the public, of course. Instead, his wife appears in a "news" interview, extolling his loyalty. "He was dedicated to his country," she insists. Such delusions allow wars to be fought.

5

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image