Review by Camden Ferrell
Bulletproof is the newest film from documentary filmmaker Todd Chandler. It is his second feature length film and has been playing festivals around the world for over the last year. The film tackles a timely subject and uses some clever storytelling, but it can’t always make up for it being less than the sum of its parts at times.
This movie tackles the topic of gun violence in American schools. It attempts to analyze the complexities and nuances of the topic through an examination of the industries and training that have emerged due to this rising issue. This is an interesting premise that is obviously timely to the country’s current climate, and there’s a lot of room for biting commentary and exploration.
From the start, Chandler’s editing of the film is unique if nothing else. Instead of telling a clear-cut story, he opts to use the juxtaposition of school rituals to tell a story of modern-day American schools. We see typical school activities like marching bands, school announcements, and basketball games. However, this is contrasted by the number of scenes involving school shooter drills, firearm training, and other teacher-attended seminars on the topic.
While Chandler’s means of storytelling is ambitious and should be commended, it is prone to feeling repetitive and monotonous at times throughout the movie. As the film progresses, it doesn’t always go deeper into its topic or its analysis of its phenomenon. This can lead the film to feel like it’s doing a lot without saying as much. This is especially disappointing considering how important and interesting the topic of gun violence in schools is.
The documentary also doesn’t ever seem to have a consistent style. Most parts feel like an observational documentary but will be interrupted by a talking head interview that throws off the pace of the film. In addition to those minor flaws, the film merely points out the state of American schools without ever analyzing truly analyzing the factors that cause it. With this approach, the film doesn’t have a strong call to action; it just presents its topic the way it currently is with no solution or opinion on how to proceed going forward.
Bulletproof takes an interesting topic, an interesting approach, and delivers a not always interesting film. Its execution is unique even if it isn’t always effective, and it shows a lot of promise for Chandler’s future endeavors. However, the movie can feel like it has a higher opinion of itself than it warrants.
Bulletproof is in theaters October 29.