7.5/10 As a veteran I am always skeptical of modern warfare films due to the frequent problem of many of them being so unrealistic or unrepresentative of how modern military life is portrayed. Overall, “Sand Castle” brings a breath of fresh air as it tells a compelling story in a mostly accurate representation. There are a few flaws which I will get out of the way first. The biggest problem this film has is with its characters. There is almost no character development in the entire movie for leading nor supporting characters. Not a single character has a real arc where they are completely changed or have grown as an individual by the end of the film. The main protagonist, played by Nicholas Hoult, is also the most annoying character in the film, which is a problem. The second biggest lead character, played by the underrated Logan Marshall-Green, is a much more compelling character who I wish the screenwriter would have fleshed out more. Relationship problems with his girl back home are hinted at but never touched upon further or developed, making them pointless to put into the film in the first place. The film having no real, singular antagonist or bad guy to root against outside of nameless, faceless terrorists also hurts the film. A few of the lines of dialogue are a little unrealistic or cheesy but luckily there aren’t too many lines like that. Despite those script/character problems, the film gets a lot right. The plot is a solid and original one and most of the dialogue is well written. The production and costume design are flawless and the acting is all around very well done. Some actors get meatier, showier roles than others but everyone is putting in good work. The action scenes are extremely well choreographed, shot and edited as there is plenty of spatial awareness and no quick cut garbage so we are easily able to see the action unfolding. The film touches on winning the hearts and minds of the locals as well as the difficulties that lie in the relationships between these two conflicting cultures, which I found fascinating. The blend of action, social commentary and strong plot adds up to one compelling film that may not be the most memorable war film of its kind but it will definitely entertain you and give you a fresh perspective in an oversaturated genre. In a sea of bad to mediocre Netflix original movies, this is one sand castle worth getting your hands dirty for.
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