Men Go to Battle (2015) Film Review from the 14th Annual Tribeca Film Festival, a movie directed by Zachary Treitz, starring Tim Morton, David Maloney, Rachel Korine, Kate Lyn Sheil, Steve Coulter, and Emily Cass McDonnell.
American Civil War stories can usually translate well onto film or television when you mix in some drama into the history of the war. However, Men Go to Battle may be one of those films that don’t do it so well.
The film follows two Kentucky brothers Francis (David Maloney) and Henry (Tim Morton) during the height of the Civil War. Unfazed by what’s happening outside of their small town, Francis and Henry lead very quiet lives tending to their family farm and playing tricks on one another. Everything changes after Henry kisses the daughter of an aristocrat, worries about retribution, and disappears from town. Francis starts to grow concerned over his brother’s disappearance, but he finds relief after receiving a letter from Henry saying that he joined the Civil War as part of the Union army. The experience that both these brothers face from both sides of the war changes their relationship forever.
The whole cast of this film really makes the viewer feel like they are living in that time in American history. The costumes look really authentic and truly capture how these people lived down south in the Civil War. The locale of Kentucky also works in the film’s favor as the landscape mirrors the 1860s. Despite having good costume designs and good locations, what doesn’t work is the film’s screenplay. The story of Francis and Henry felt like something out of a comedy skit on Saturday Night Live. However, this works in the film’s favor as both Francis and Henry make the film funny and sometimes even human. However, this only worked during the beginning of the film. The rest was slow paced and we hardly see any scenes with Francis in the latter half of the film. Most of the film usually depicts Henry’s time during the war and his odyssey towards heading home.
The film’s appeal lies in the enormous amount of detail that was put, most notably the use of Civil War reenactors. The extras in the film really made the battle sequences real, making us feel like we are in the war with them. With such a small budget, director Zachary Treitz does so much to make the film feel less of a Civil War reenactment and more of a human story. Using experiences from his own family during the war, Treitz puts some texture onto the story rather than what truly happened. The film invests in so much time about American lives before the Civil War broke out, but it doesn’t focus enough on the main story between these two brothers.
Men Go to Battle is a pleasurable film that can also be disappointing. Some historic films usually change from dramatic tones to a more real portrayal of history, which is what this film has done well. The film felt more of a true-life interpretation of the American Civil War with some war singing, smoking tobacco, and some infidelity. The film greatly captured everyday life in Kentucky during the height of the Civil War. Most of the shots were made almost entirely in the dark, which doesn’t make the film less enjoyable up to an extent. This Civil War film dressed up to be more of a dark comedy-drama, which is unusual for a period film but it works. A period piece like this need to put some attention to detail, and Men Go to Battle ran into some trouble doing that. While the film was a decent effort to show some American history, Men Go to Battle didn’t bode well in storytelling and failed to generate a balance between entertainment and realism.
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