The film was a fairly turbulent and dichotomous trip: the typically genre-specific content of war, violence, and suspense was set against a bleak feel and a soft, romantic look, with high grain and poetically conceptual scenic shots captured by the use of handheld camera throughout. Composer David Holmes’ synth-filled, pulsating score heightened the tension and underscored the id-filled and blindly passionate desires of the people entrenched in the conflict.
Jack O’Connell always does well with what he’s given. Gary Hook, a young British soldier, is a somewhat passive figure that seems to have more things happening to him against his control, instead of always having agency and causing story events to happen. Despite the only bit of characterization or backstory being an introductory episode of Hook playing with his younger brother before he leaves to be stationed in Belfast, the audience can still sympathize with Hook enough to make us want to go through the story with him and root him on as he stumbles through trying to make it out of enemy lines without getting captured and killed by a group of radical Irish activists who had been pursuing him from the second he was left behind. O’Connell somehow manages to be dense, yet believable, mainly impenetrable, outside of obvious physical ailments, but translucent enough that we understand and feel the emotional resonance of the troubling conclusion.
However, this seemingly thriller/war genre film never quite gelled with the story at its heart. The wavering loyalties, treachery of war, and the evil that lies deep within man, almost hinting at a pacifistic message, never took enough hold or had enough significance throughout, leaving it without making the impact it could have made. It’s a genre film trying to be more than just that, and coming close, but just barely missing it.