Film Review: RECON (directed by Robert Port)

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by Tony Frankel on November 10, 2020

in Film


There was something strange about Recon even before I saw it. Why is a film that clearly looks like a studio-budget WWII drama showing up on Fathom Events, the distributor that usually veers far from the world of heroic blockbusters, relying on cable, broadcast and Broadway for most of their showings, with a peppering of specialized-audience targets, including the faith-based Fathom Affinity Network. Was writer/director Robert Port’s feature debut possibly a cover for a religious feature? The answer is “no.” But there is a tie-in to Veteran’s Day 2020, when the film is being released.

Having seen it, the latter is clear. But Port’s intent to celebrate the heroes of WWII by adapting Richard Bausch’s eleventh novel Peace, goes awry because the novel’s moral dilemmas, battle fatigue and heightened danger are not illustrated here with tension and immediacy. What should have been a taut thriller that concerns four American G.I.s on a scouting mission during the war’s waning days becomes rather anemic given their situation where everything is at stake.

Taking place on a brutal and dreary winter’s day, a bedraggled squad’s sergeant commits a murderous act, after which he sends Corporal Marson (Alexander Ludwig) to weed out any Nazi soldiers before heading back to camp. Marson, who has a wife back in D.C. and a child whom he has never seen, takes with him Heisman — athletic and handsome (RJ Fetherstonhaugh); Asch (Chris Brochu), a Jewish married man from Boston; and Joyner (Sam Keeley), a Michigander nineteen-year-old who dislikes blacks, Catholics, and Jews. Joining the troops as a guide up the Italian mountain is an extremely enigmatic and annoyed Angelo (Franco Nero [yes, the Spaghetti Western Nero]). Making the situation even more fraught (at least in the novella, which is based on truth) is an unknown sniper.

OK, so here’s what is odd: We can only assume these men have been at war for some time, so tell me where they learned to speak loudly at all times. Especially Asch, who offers no end of blathering, even when his leader tells him to shut up. So when the sniper’s presence becomes clearer, it’s hard to buy that these guys are, in essence, spies. They come upon deserted camps, which you would think would freak them out more, as the enemy may be in hiding. But. they. don’t. stop. talking.

We get that it’s bleak midwinter, but must D.P. Edd Lukas make every shot dull green and grey? (And why isn’t anyone on screen shivering?) Port also experiments with time-jumping editing (HÃ¥kan Karlsson) and wholly contemporary music (Klas Whal and Anders Niska) that support neither the tale nor, especially, the time. To be fair, there are some incongruities in the source material, but Port needed to make sure that it all makes sense to us. He does manage to show his characters as flawed and deeply affected as the book, but that made his film — produced by Maury Povich — more of a character study when it screamed to be something more scary and profound.

photos courtesy of Brain Storm Media

Brain Storm Media and Enderby Entertainment | U.S.A. | 1:35 minutes | 2020
available at Fathom Event November 10; VOD November 11; theatrical release November 13, 2020

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