Opening with the line “War is cruelty”, Barber employs striking visuals, mumbled conversation and (very) slow pacing to weave this tale of woe and survival. Led by a strong Marling, supported by an even better Otaru, its unyielding message of war’s cruelty at home is clear but never enthralls.
The message dominates the narrative throughout, leaving the film listless, only punctuated with violent outbursts. This single-track focus eventually effectuates its own downfall blurring the lines as to whether war or men alone represent cruelty.
Frustration reaches fever pitch by the film’s finale which teases so much, yet concludes so little.
Despite strong performances by Otaru and Marling, there’s an air of missed opportunity. Self-conscious throughout, the film’s wallows in its narrow pervue missing the universal nature of the truth that “war is cruelty”.
CAST: Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, Sam Worthington, Amy Nutall and Muna Otaru
DIRECTOR: Daniel Barber
WRITER: Julia Hart
SYNOPSIS: Left without men in the dying days of the American Civil War, three Southern women – two sisters and one African-American slave – must fight to defend their home and themselves from two rogue soldiers who have broken off from the fast-approaching Union Army.