“Sand Castle” is the new Netflix Original Film directed by Fernando Coimbra, starring; Nicholas Hoult, Logan Marshall-Green, Glen Powell and Henry Cavill. The story follows a group of soldiers who are attempting to return the water supply to a small village during the Iraq War. With a focus on Pvt. Matt Ocre, a young man who only joined the service to get money for college, but soon finds himself in many situations he admittedly is not ready for.
Now going into this review, I am aware that war based movies are not for everyone. They can often be a little violent for people’s liking and sometimes the situations they create can make people feel uneasy. But when done right this genre can capture the intensity of war, and hardships life in the service, and they can also convey the sacrifices so many men and women make to defend their country.
Not all movies in this genre are good however. Many can use the theme simply as a vehicle to create an action-movie. While others do a great job of telling stories that are based on true-events to a varying degree. In doing so, some will focus on the violence of a situation, and others can convey more dramatic tales through the situational ramifications, inner conflict, or cultural dynamics of the given region.
“Sand Castle” to me was closer to the latter. It didn’t focus on the action it kept the characters and the ramifications of the conflict they faced in the spotlight and it was a very enjoyable film. It wasn’t perfect but had more than enough substance to pull you into the settings and connect you with the characters. Something I think Netflix has always been able to do with their in-house projects is make excellent casting choices. Even if the result isn’t the most entertaining, the performances and casting are usually not the issue. Which was something this movie thrived on.
Nicholas Hoult was excellent in the lead as this conflicted solider who pretty much only joined to get tuition money and soon finds himself in the middle of a war. Hoult captures the uneasiness of being in way over your head in a very effective way. It was subtle but Hoult conveys the right depths of emotion at the given time to really connect you with him. You can sort of relate to his torment and as his character’s inner strength must either grow or completely crumble was a progression that compelled me to see out till the end.
Logan Marshal-Green was also fantastic. He felt the part of the Sergeant with ease and while in a different way, his character had a turmoil inside him as well. He was a compelling, grounded character, it was intriguing to watch him lead his group of men and he creates another character that you can really invest in and connect with, as he shows a great chemistry with the cast.
Henry Cavill was easily the biggest name attached to this film but his role was much smaller. His imprint on this film was minimal but he commands the screen with each of his scenes and was a nice addition to a story-line that already had two leads to carry the weight. Regardless though, Cavill was awesome in this movie and made some lasting impressions with the screen-time he had.
The story this film followed was also a very tense one. A village has been caught in the middle of the war and during a U.S. airstrike their water supply is destroyed. So naturally when the soldiers are sent in to not only provide water to the area, but attempt to repair the pump-house and pipeline, creates a very uneasy situation.
This dynamic creates many suspenseful moments that result in some solid battle-sequences and nail-biting small arms conflicts. The backdrops and settings for these sequences were well selected to create a range of feelings from tense confined conflicts, to more, wide open heavy arms battles. All of which were very well shot and orchestrated. The action did not take center stage though, which for this movie was a good thing. They would come in to break the dramatic mood of the plot and overall created a nice balance of somber, more gripping story-telling, with effective splashes of intensity.
Now on the downside, this film could have examined the situation of this small village with a little more depth. I wouldn’t say some of this story was glossed over by any means but it could have been examined further. I think if this film was edited a little differently, and some of the silent imagery was trimmed a bit, that it could have allowed a little more room for some dialogue. It was minor but it felt like this story brushed upon some moments and themes that with a little more time could have added so much more substance to the dramatic tone had they been a little more developed.
But that does not mean this wasn’t a good movie because it was. It felt like a war-movie for a more general audience. It has more than enough meat to it to make you invest in it. Die-hard fans of war movies will find some flaws and inaccuracies, but without the luxury of a blockbuster film budget it crafts a thought-provoking package that I recommend checking out. The story has enough foundation, the performances are good enough to pull your attention, and “Sand Castle” is a great choice if you are looking for something on Netflix.