Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.
Wars provide incredibly fertile backgrounds for movies, regardless of whether the genre is action, drama, horror or zany comedy. (Lookin’ at you, In the Army Now.) The instant aesthetic and dramatic boost of having all your characters be ripped dudes in uniform toting machine guns is a temptation a lot of filmmakers are unable to resist. Many of them fail to realize, however, that pulling that off and making it look plausible is a hell of a lot tougher than buying army surplus gear and adding “hoo-ra” flourishes to your screenplay.
The Objective (Netflix) succeeds where so many independent war movies fail. It gets the soldiery bits right, presenting what feels mostly like a legit special forces unit trudging through an unforgiving desert environment that is almost certainly not Afghanistan, but feels like it could be. A little research tells me it was probably shot in Morocco, which is one of the only places with mountainous deserts that can (almost) pass for Afghanistan without the unfortunate side effect of placing the cast and crew’s life in constant, mortal danger.
The story is pretty simple. A spec-ops team is commandeered by a CIA spook on the pretext of finding a local religious leader and getting him to say “I love America” or some shit. Needless to say, that’s not what he’s really after.
It’s not giving anything away to say that what CIA man is really looking for is supernatural in nature. That much should be obvious from the first few minutes of narration. It’s never really clear what “it” is, some kind of alien technology probably. Unfortuantely, that vagueness, which should be intriguing, feels uninentional. Like the effects and editing weren’t up to the task of conveying what the characters were supposed to be seeing.
Overall this is a movie that starts off with enormous potential but finishes kind of flat. Still, it’s worth watching for the well cast ensemble. Many of them appear to be actual veterans, which always helps, and they’re given opportunities for some legitimately funny riffing from time to time.
Added bonus: The Objective was written and directed by Daniel Myrick, one half of the tandem that brought you The Blair Witch Project. So that’s what he’s been up to, though this movie came out in 2008 and it’s his most recent credit. Meanwhile his former partner, Eduardo Sanchez has been doing…a little better.