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Can Shia LeBeouf Convey The Trauma Of Combat?
In more ways than one, actor Shia LaBeouf is the perfect actor to embody a young Marine struggling with the effects of combat as he does in new movie, “Man Down,” directed by Dito Montiel.
As the son of a Vietnam veteran who suffered from flashbacks, LaBeouf knows the personal struggle many Americans face when they return home from war. He knows the battle sometimes never ends.
Additionally, LaBeouf underwent a military-style boot camp supervised former U.S. Marine turned Hollywood producer, Nick Jones Jr., where at one-point, LeBeouf subjected himself to pepper spray while being pummeled with batons and martial arts bags — training usually given to Marines attending the non-lethal weapons and tactics course, according to “Man Down” screenwriter Adam Simon.
Screenshot from "Man Down" trailer.
This wasn’t the first time LaBeouf took a beating for a military role. In preparation for the film, “Fury,” LaBeouf ripped out his own tooth and repeatedly cut own face with a knife to make his war wounds more lifelike. He also went months without bathing and sought training with the National Guard.
“I’m honored to stand in front of you this evening. We put a lot of love into this movie,” LaBeouf told an audience of active-duty and military veterans this past November at an advanced showing of “Man Down” in New York City.
Unlike most movies meant to entertain or provide an escape, “Man Down” shows the American citizenry the psychological toll war can have on those we send to war.
The hyperbolic realism presented in “Man Down” by LaBeouf’s character, Lance Cpl. Gabriel Drummer, can be compared that of the 1992 film, “Scent of a Woman,” in which an unlikeable and erratic Frank Slade, played brilliantly by Al Pacino, struggles with the inner demons of his military past.
“I have seen boys like these, younger than these, their arms torn out, their legs ripped off! But there is nothing like the sight of an amputated spirit. There is no prosthetic for that,” Pacino yells.
It is in a similar condition that we meet Drummer as he treads across desolate streets and past decaying buildings with blood-red graffiti that screams, “America, we have a problem!”
“Man Down” jumps frequently from this apocalyptic hellscape to present day where Drummer undergoes the hardships of Marine infantry training, forming relationships through adversity and navigating the complex waters of a young marriage faced with their first deployment — not to mention having a child naïve to the problems of society, but mature enough to notice the underlying strife in his own home.
While those whom have served in the military could easily pick apart the inaccuracies of infantry training — warfare insignia badges worn by actor Gary Oldman or firefights in Afghanistan — these very minor discrepancies are quickly forgiven amid the plethora of military life the filmmakers got right and the compelling storytelling used to portray the way post-traumatic stress disorder.
The scenes between LaBeouf and his wife, played by Kate Mara from “House of Cards,” and his son (newcomer Charlie Shotwell) are genuine and heartbreaking as Mara and Shotwell both give imitable performances of a story that will seem all too familiar service members, in which broken marriages and dysfunctional homes — or worse — are commonplace.
While the filmmakers of “Man Down” agree that their story is not representative of all service members and veterans and shouldn’t be taken as such, the film is aimed at demonstrating the very real mental health issues — PTSD, major depression, traumatic brain injury — that one in five Iraq and Afghanistan veterans endured when they returned home and the impact of those struggles.
While the film has received a lot of criticism, the one reason “Man Down” is worth seeing is simply the Oscar-worthy performance from LaBeouf that seems to be cut from the same cloth as Robert De Niro’s “The Deer Hunter” as he fully embodies a combat Marine: loyal to both family and Corps; yet, riddled with survivor’s guilt that he hopelessly tries to bottle down and suppress.
Film critic Peter Debruge, writing in Variety, compared LaBeouf’s performance to Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift; however, he dinged the film for being an “awful mess” and a “appallingly manipulative psychological thriller, which scolds audiences for not caring enough about our veterans.”
Yet, what Debruge misses about “Man Down” is that the human story and the unique passion of Adam Simon, who crafted the screenplay eight years prior while being homeless, divorced, and bankrupt on the streets of Los Angeles, is that the film is meant to be raw and disjointed — there is no happy ending — because it’s society that’s reflected, and we are all responsible.
“We are what we consume,” Simon told Task & Purpose by phone. “We used to have these movies like ‘Taxi Driver,’ ‘Deer Hunter,’ and ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ that held a mirror to our society and that’s what ‘Man Down’ is doing.”
Simon added, “Our movie is here to punch you in the nuts and wake you up and say this is happening and if it happens to one person, it’s too many.”
“Man Down” is now playing in theaters.
‘Take what’s inside and get it outside’ — Air Force psychologist reminds airmen of mental health resources
Kirtland Air Force Base isn't much different from the world beyond its gates when it comes to dealing with mental illnesses, a base clinical psychologist says.
Maj. Benjamin Carter told the Journal the most frequent diagnosis on the base is an anxiety disorder.
"It's not a surprise, but I anticipate about anytime in the population in America, about 20% of the population has some form of diagnosable anxiety disorder, and it's no different in the military," he said.
Leading the way among the anxiety disorders, he said, were post-traumatic stress disorder "or something like panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder."
The DNA of a niece and nephew, who never met their uncle, has helped identify the remains of the Kansas Marine who died in WWII.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced that 21-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Pfc. Raymond Warren was identified using DNA and circumstantial evidence. Warren had been buried in a cemetery in the Gilbert Islands, where he was killed when U.S. forces tried to take secure one of the islands from the Japanese.
The Battle of Tarawa lasted from Nov. 20 to Nov. 23, 1943, and claimed the lives of 1,021 U.S. marines and sailors, more than 3,000 Japanese soldiers and an estimated 1,000 Korean laborers before the U.S. troops seized control, the agency said.
Arizona lawmakers are vowing to fight a plan by the Air Force to start retiring some of the nation's fleet of A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack jets — a major operation at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base — as part of a plan to drop some older, legacy weapon systems to help pay for new programs.
U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., a former A-10 pilot, and U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., both vowed to fight the move to retire 44 of the oldest A-10s starting this year.
During a press briefing last week, Air Force officials unveiled plans to start mothballing several older platforms, including retiring some A-10s even as it refits others with new wings.
MOSCOW/SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong Un was filmed riding through the snow on a white stallion last year, has spent tens of thousands of dollars on 12 purebred horses from Russia, according to Russian customs data.
Accompanied by senior North Korean figures, Kim took two well-publicized rides on the snowy slopes of the sacred Paektu Mountain in October and December.
State media heralded the jaunts as important displays of strength in the face of international pressure and the photos of Kim astride a galloping white steed were seen around the world.
North Korea has a long history of buying pricey horses from Russia and customs data first reported by Seoul-based NK News suggests that North Korea may have bolstered its herd in October.
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A high-profile local Taliban figure who announced and justified the 2012 attack on teenage Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai has escaped detention, Pakistan's interior minister confirmed a few days after the militant announced his breakout on social media.
Former Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, who claimed responsibility on behalf of his group for scores of Taliban attacks, proclaimed his escape on Twitter and then in an audio message sent to Pakistani media earlier this month.
The Pakistani military, which had kept Ehsan in detention for three years, has declined to comment but, asked by reporters about the report, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah, said: "That is correct, that is correct."
Shah, a retired brigadier general, added that "you will hear good news" in response to questions about whether there had been progress in hunting down Ehsan.