Thoughtful reviews, the Boulder film scene

" I always wanted to be a criminal I guess. Not this big a one. "
— Martin Sheen, Badlands

MRQE Top Critic

The Great Train Robbery

(review...)

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Poor Daniel Myrick, he’ll be known as “the guy that did Blair Witch” for years to come (we should all be so unlucky). But after seeing his new film The objective, I’d like to think that people will be remembering him for this as well.

I really enjoyed this film. I liked the story, the location, the characters and was impressed with the cinematography. And here I thought The objective might be another who-gets-iced-next sleazeball horror flick.

Believable Spooks

Morocco is totally believable as Afghanistan
Morocco is totally believable as Afghanistan

OK, it is a who-gets-iced-next horror flick. The members of a crack U.S. Special Forces squad, led by creepy CIA agent Benjamin Keynes (Jonas Ball) and their Afghani guide Abdul (Chems-Eddine Zinoune), get picked off one after another on their super-secret mission into the tribal mountains of Afghanistan in November 2001.

The army guys are believable as tough intelligent professionals and Ben Keynes shows us why they call CIA people “spooks.” Abdul has a family that fears for his life and the film takes the time to show his mother pleading with him not to go with the Americans. The landscape is beautiful and desolate, totally believable as Afghanistan (the film was shot in Morocco) and the locals are flesh and blood and not cardboard cutouts to be knocked out of the way.

This isn’t just a mission to kill some terrorist bad guys; something much more sinister is going on here, and Keynes isn’t talking. A radiation signature has been detected from space by a spy satellite and there is fear that Al Qaeda has got a nuke hidden in the Afghani mountains.

This is presumably the reality under the superficial get-the-terrorists cover story, but like an onion, there are layers and layers beneath that story too. Keynes knows more than he’s letting on and eventually we find out that what he knows is that nobody in the CIA knows what is really going on in that area. Keynes had worked the same patch of ground back in the ’80s when the CIA backed the Mujahadaheen against the Russians. At that time, the CIA discovered there was “something wrong” with this one particular Afghani valley. Electronics don’t work right. Strange things happen. And ever since Alexander the Great’s time, armies go in but don’t come back out.

Ghost Stories from War Zones

This is a solid story idea that’s got an X-Files vibe to it with supernatural elements of the early (i.e. good) Lost. Fifty years ago, this would have been a Twilight Zone episode. What happens up on the “sacred mountain” is inventive and weirdly unknowable. And that’s the way I like my unknown stuff to be.

The objective not a perfect film and early on it stumbles badly when the first casualty is discovered as a pile of gore, guts, a stray boot, and a hat. I thought, “Well, here we go, it’s circling the sewer.” But The objective regains its horror balance and after some scary night scenes with weird lights and ghostly sounds (good old Blair Witch atmospheric stuff) the story draws you up into the formidable mountains with the squad.

At times it’s a bit too much like Close Encounters, and Keynes’ voice-over narrative is maybe too much like Captain Willard’s from Apocalypse Now. Indeed the whole set-up of spook and soldiers going into the heart of darkness is very Apocalypse Now. But it’s not fatal to the film.

What may be fatal is that it’s too timely. If it had come out two years ago when Afghanistan was on Bush’s back burner, the public might have been more receptive... or at least less threatened. Are we ready to be entertained by a ghost story set in a war we’re still fighting? I don’t know. All I know is that The objective is a heck of a good film and deserves a viewing.

DVD Extras

There are interviews with director Myrick and DP Stephanie Martin, and a “making-of” short feature with interesting scenes from the Morocco set.

Picture and Sound

The movie offers great cinematography. Myrick gets in a bit of hand-held night vision realism inspired, he says, from YouTube clips from Iraq and Afghanistan.

How to Use This DVD

Sit back and enjoy the ride.

  • Fausto Gonzalez: I totally agree with you.
    As an skeptic, I don't digest horror very well(any zombie movie, demons or magic), but the objective is so damn well done, that I keep viewing the film time and time again(I have it).
    And if you pay too much attention to details, you'll get some things that make sense, like the voices when the "vimanas" appear, it sound like the call to prayer in Islam but distorted... It took me some time(and a good headset) to get the words more or less correct(if that could be called correct). If the location were India, you'll hear some hindi "holy chant" to scare the locals(which is the point, I think, to not to kill many people and too much attention)

    The words are similar to this part of the "adhan":
    Hayya ʿala ṣ-ṣsalāt
    Hayya ʿala 'l-falāḥ

    Since I can't speak arabic, what I could hear well was the first word only: "Hasten"

    The sad part is that vimana is not a UFO but I can overlook that to enjoy the film... :)

    Thanks and good day. January 30, 2015 reply