An Act of War full movie review - Melancholia.
An artful, powerful, and depressing movie, Travis Bickle on steroids.
Russ Russo is a young man who is one of those urban loners -- unshaven, shabbily dressed, a mere projectionist, whose only hobby is taking movies although he seems to get no pleasure from it. There is no figure with less humor this side of Mount Rushmore. It develops that he was taken as a POW and tortured. It has driven him mad and he finally bursts like a pustule.
The climax reveals that the four victims of his final spasm of violence, before his own suicide, were hallucinations. One of the victims, we discover, was his own father who, in reality, had been killed after being shipped out to combat.
I take it to be an anti-war statement. When Russo finally eats his gun, the film switches at once from black and white to color as Russo's blood splatters all over an American flag on the wall.
If it was intended to be an anti-war film, it succeeds. Okay. Russo's father had been killed after being shipped out to a war while Russo was a child. And Russo himself had been a prisoner of war. What wars were they? I don't know. We seem to have been at war in one place or another for some half a century and I can no longer keep them straight. It's been a kind of perpetual war.
It's magnificent in its establishment of atmosphere but the atmosphere is as depressing as hell. Russo shuffling along deserted city streets. Russo sitting alone in an empty diner. Russo have sex with a hardened whore -- an imaginary hardened whore at that.
Throughout, the actor's face is a mask of tragedy, which seems only to underscore what we already have learned. His voice is a hoarse, tentative whisper, as if he's hardly more than a ghost. He's a wispy echo of Travis Bickle and it's tiresome after a while. The other performers have room to stretch out a bit and they deliver the goods.
The story borrows not just from "Taxi" but from "American Psycho", "A Brilliant Mind", and even Bob Clark's horror story, "Dead of Night," in which a young man returns from Vietnam as a sort of zombie. The business of the hallucinated friends is becoming an over-familiar conceit. It's like the ending in which the terrible story turns out to have been nothing more than a dream.
But if you're going to make this kind of film, PTSD is an appropriate springboard. It's a very real psychiatric condition that leads to nightmares, substance abuse, violence, and suicide. It ruined Audy Murphy's life. And I can't forget one interview I did as a behavioral scientist with a Vietnam Vet in the VA hospital in Palo Alto, and his describing the Vietnamese crawling about under his artillery fire "like ants", and his having been picked up on the beach with a pistol, ready to find permanent relief from the monstrous memories.
It's an ambitious movie and the director has handled it in ways that are sometimes innovative. We see two people in a shot. One shows a photo to the other and says, "Do you know this man?" The audience expects an instant insert of the photo being held by a couple of disembodied fingers. Not here. We do eventually see the picture but it's a fuzzy image of a man and two kids. There are too many loopholes in the plot for the movie to be entirely successful but it's going to be hard to forget.