SIFF 2012: ‘Recalled’ [Review]
Avid moviegoers can appreciate the anonymity of films. Sometimes, it’s almost impossible to not know at least a little bit about a movie beforehand. Thankfully, independent films and film festivals have made it possible to shield prior knowledge. Going into Recalled, I had no idea who was involved in the project or what the movie was about. Thankfully, this didn’t come back to hurt me either – there have been times where I’ve blindly started watching a movie that turned out to be about some pretty dark and twisted stuff. Recalled makes its World Premiere at the 38th Seattle International Film Festival this weekend, and I am rooting for the film to get a wider release in the near future.
Now, what genre is the movie? Before the movie screened, the emcee described it as a “military thriller,” which automatically made me think “war movie.” Of all the genres, I would definitely put “war movies” pretty high on the list. In fact, I usually prefer war movies more than, say, sci-fi movies because they seem a bit more grounded.
Recalled may be a “military movie” but it is NOT a “war movie.” Even in the opening shot, a 12-hour flash forward, it appears to take place somewhere overseas. As the movie starts to show its real colors, though, we find out a much different set-up.
The movie follows a National Guard deployment as they get ready to ship out. Once believed to be more of a back-up plan, National Guards have seen a significant amount of duty overseas since the 9/11 attacks. This automatically sets the movie apart from other post-9/11 movies. Then, we find out that one of our main characters, Lieutenant Sefton (Seth Gabel), has been transferred right before his Iraq deployment. His fellow comrades don’t buy his transfer, openly criticizing him for abandoning the unit before they ship out.
Besides him, Specialist Reyes (Shad “Bow Wow” Moss), a skilled medic, has his transfer denied. Even though his son likely has lung cancer, Reyes is still forced to join the 18-month deployment. Sefton, a charismatic and cunning guy, may be the only one who can help Reyes escape (or go AWOL) before it’s too late.
Michael Connors makes his first huge step into feature filmmaking here, having only worked primarily as a cinematographer for short films. His only directorial work was on a short of the same name (basically a condensed version of this movie). I didn’t take time to watch the short, but I am glad that I got to see a feature length film.
Even though the story may hide behind a military mask, Recalled relies on the emotional story. In a short, we’d be given a more quicker character story. In a full 91 minutes, the movie feels a lot more like a “natural” story. It deals with an impossible scenario, too, making it exponentially more thrilling. Whichever side you are, whether it is Reyes’ or the military’s (led by The Wire alum Pablo Schreiber), it’s very easy to see the other side’s argument. As a viewer, I was glad I wasn’t involved in what was going on.
One thing all military and war movies struggle with pertains to their message. It is very hard to define war and violence without taking some sort of political stand. Usually, some people are thrown off by what the movie has to say about the politics. Really, war is a defining characteristic of public opinion. Recalled doesn’t try to hide their message right away, pointing a finger directly at the Bush administration in the opening text. Thankfully, it also doesn’t pound this message the whole movie either. I’ll take the compromise, and consider the movie more about character, love, and sacrifice than political scrutiny.
Whether you know a lot about the movie (after this review) or not (like me going in), Connors’ military thriller Recalled is undeniably entertaining. The central conflict is one of the tougher predicaments I’ve seen in a long time. There were little things that bugged me (such as the Sefton’s constant badgering), but the complaints are few and far between. The movie is well acted (even “Bow Wow” wasn’t distracting) and well paced.
I hope it plays in a theater near you in the future. Until then, try to catch it in Seattle at the following times (Director Michael Connors will be on-hand for both showings):
June 8 – 9:00 PM (SIFF Cinema Uptown)
June 9 – 2:30 PM (SIFF Cinema Uptown)