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Review: Sand Castle

Sand Castle
04.18.2017
5 10

PLOT: In 2003 Iraq, a young machine gunner (Nicholas Hoult) is part of a platoon tasked with repairing a broken water system in a dangerous village north of Baghdad.

REVIEW: SAND CASTLE is another Netflix original film, meaning that it will be bypassing theaters entirely, opting for a day and date international release on the streaming service April 21st. One must give the streamer credit for sticking to their guns as far as their original films go, with them not yet caving to pressure from exhibitors to have these movies go a more traditional route. That said, I still feel that many Netflix films are not worthy of being called features, but rather seem more like elevated cable movies, the kind you might see on HBO or a premium channel. I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD, BEASTS OF NO NATION and the recent THE DISCOVERY were the exceptions, as they seemed like legit films, while the Adam Sandler movies are their own thing (for better or worse).

SAND CASTLE is another Netflix movie that doesn’t really feel like a movie, but rather an extended pilot of a TV show, with it being based on a Black List script about one platoon’s efforts to save a village during the Iraq War. As far as movies of this kind go, it’s routine with Hoult’s young soldier being the kind often spotlighted in films of this ilk, being the conscientious one who’s reluctant to serve but does his best when push comes to shove. The movie opens with Hoult’s character smashing his hand in an effort to get a medical discharge, but once this scheme fails he quickly falls in-line, and SAND CASTLE becomes more about the day-to-day of protecting the village, negotiating with the elders, and surviving.

SAND CASTLE isn’t a bad movie, but it’s a bland one. It lacks the edge a proper, big-screen approach may have given, and watching it via streaming, it feels too low-key to have ever made any real waves had it not been acquired by the streamer. Frankly, it’s not good enough to have played theatrically, with TV-level production values, and stock characters galore. Nicholas Hoult is an outstanding actor, but he’s straight-jacketed by a part that doesn’t allow him to show much personality, making him an unengaging lead. Even the main character in the much-maligned BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK had more going on than he does here.

One of SAND CASTLE’s big selling points is the presence of Henry Cavill as a special forces soldier, but like Hoult, he’s just window-dressing. His role is surprisingly small, with him only really showing up here and there, gruffly barking out orders and then disappearing. We never know what makes him tick, and this is not an especially good showcase for him. Of the cast, the only ones to really stick out are EVERYBODY WANTS SOME’s Glen Powell as the resident hot-dog soldier (another stock character – but at least he has presence) and the often underrated Logan Marshall-Green as the compassionate platoon sergeant, a nice departure from the more typical alpha-sarge so routinely depicted in war movies.

SAND CASTLE will probably be of moderate interest to war movie buffs, but it’s nothing you haven’t seen done before. I still think the great Iraq War film has yet to be made, but this isn’t it. It’s fine but not especially memorable, and certainly not the movie that’s going to finally, now and forever, establish Netflix as a feature-film player the same way they’ve been established in TV.

Source: JoBlo.com

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