Review by Sean Boelman
The fact that the original title of Robert David Port’s WWII drama Recon was “Peace” should tell viewers everything they need to know about this frustratingly paint-by-numbers flick. Heavy-handed with its message and coming up short in providing compelling combat sequences, this film struggles to justify its existence.
The movie follows a unit of soldiers who, facing internal struggles about the ethics of war, are sent on a reconnaissance mission led by an Italian civilian whose allegiance is unknown. For a film about soldiers diving headfirst into enemy territory, there is disappointingly little excitement here, and Port’s screenplay fails to compensate for it in any other area.
Based on a novel by Richard Bausch, this story is less about the war itself and more about the impact that it has on the soldiers. On paper, having a movie about the paranoia that these soldiers experience, both among themselves and towards their foreign guide, sounds interesting, but the approach that Port takes is too self-righteous to work.
There is no doubt that the film means well with its message exploring the ethics of war, but at this point, war movies have long turned away from glorifying war to showing its terrors. Even more frustrating is the fact that the movie seems to think that it is saying something new, especially in the finale that is purely expositional dialogue.
Additionally, the film fails to invest in the dynamic between the soldiers, causing the paranoia aspect to fail. For something like this to be successful, we need to question not only why we should trust them, but also why they don’t trust each other. And since the ending is so predictable, this doubt never really comes into play.
Alexander Ludwig does a solid job in the lead role, doing his best with a character that gives him very little in terms of good dialogue, but when the movie does require some range, he is able to pull it off. Everyone in the supporting cast is pretty unmemorable, giving turns that feel like they could come from any war film from any era.
Port does succeed in making a mostly effective movie in a visual sense, but as expected, it’s also very safe and straightforward. The only element that stands out in one way or the other is the score, which is somewhat overpowering at times. Otherwise, Port’s film is a well-shot but plain war movie.
Recon was seemingly always meant to be an intimate and small-scale take on the genre, but its main failure is that it fails to give the audience sufficient reason to care. It’s the same type of apologetic war film that has been seen hundreds of times before, and not a very interesting one at that.
Recon screens in theaters for one night only on November 10 and hits VOD on November 11.