Netflix movies don’t often get the same attention as movies released in cinema. I try to keep up with a lot of the movies released exclusively through Netflix. Sand Castle was one of my most anticipated.
Starring Nicholas Hoult as a disillusioned young soldier in the Iraqi war, Sand Castle follows a group of US soldiers given the seemingly mundane mission of restoring water to a small Iraqi village. It was written by Chris Roessner and based on his own experiences in the Iraq War. Sand Castle had great potential but it was seemingly squandered for an average film.
Sand Castle is not an awful film, but rather the entire thing feels a little hollow. Director Fernando Coimbra brings nothing new to this war drama and it hits the beats you expect almost every step of the way.
Almost everything on offer here has been seen before in much better war films like The Hurt Locker, Black Hawk Down, Three Kings, Fury, Jarhead and the criminally underrated mini-series Generation Kill. Even the score sounds far too similar to a few of these films.
The development of almost all characters is sorely lacking. Hoult’s Matt Ocre joined the reserves only for the money it would provide for college. That’s about the extent of his character. His arc is by the end of the film he is willing to fight. But why?
Witnessing scenes of atrocities and fellow soldiers killed are the apparent cause for his change of heart – but the film never shows us this. Halfway through he goes from coward to courageous with no explanation. As a lead character, Hoult is incredibly flat and dare I say, boring.
Every time we seem to be about to get some development the scene ends and cuts to something else. A conversation begins with a local about education being free in Iraq versus costly in the States, the scene ends – the film seemingly shies away from anything that could be vaguely interesting.
The supporting cast lifts the film slightly but even then we are left wanting. Henry Cavill’s Special Forces Captain Syverson is entertaining but we get far too few moments with him to make a decent impact.
Logan Marshall-Green is stoic yet subtly watchable as a gruff, calculating sergeant. The actors making up the core squad have good chemistry and show a good bond of brotherhood, despite being underdeveloped.
The action, when it happens, is okay at best. It doesn’t need to be a two hour long gunfight, but the action needs to have a lasting impact. Only one action scene felt to have any weight to it.
For a film that seems so inspired by other works on war, it could learn a thing or two about keeping a watcher engaged through dialogue. Miniseries Generation Kill has two to three action scenes over 7 episodes and is vastly more engaging. You really feel the 113 minute run-time as the movie spends too long on unimportant moments.
The direction is lacking and incredibly stock standard. There is no flair or style to the scenery or the way the camera moves. Everything feels so bland and generic. Trying to invest in the archetypal soldiers becomes a chore you feel obligated to complete.
Sadly Sand Castle crumbles away from a lack of character and originality in its presentation.
Sand Castle is available on Netflix now.