Battle Scars

I don’t think it’s always required for a filmmaker to have an opinion about war if their movie is about war. Sometimes, the movie simply exists to entertain or educate about a significant historical event. But, if a filmmaker was to tell a story about the effects of war (primarily the long-term psychological impact), I feel like the filmmaker should use the platform to send a message about the value of combat.

This is where I have a major issue with Battle Scars. The film doesn’t have much of an attitude towards anything and, instead, opts for dramatic reenactments of PTSD. It’s surprising considering Battle Scars has been directed and co-written by Samuel Gonzalez Jr., a Veteran of the U.S. Army. When I interviewed Gonzalez Jr., he seemed to have an assured take on his film’s epic story, but the finished film suggests otherwise. Almost as if the filmmaker wants to hold the military accountable for mental illness experienced by Vets, but doesn’t want to besmirch the army in the process. There’s a way to address this topic without offending the service (American Sniper, with its last act, figured it out).  Gonzalez needed more practice translating his passion to the screen.

The story has potential. A soldier (Kit Lang) fights in the Vietnam war as an act of brotherhood loyalty, and continues processing his traumatic experience when he’s trying to recalibrate his life after being discharged. The course of the film involves Lang meeting different people – no sufficient relationships, just ships that pass in the night. People are introduced as friendly acquaintances only to leave Lang as strangers. Lang’s performance is intense, which compliments the prolonged loneliness he endures later on, but he overshadows a lot of the smaller performances. It isn’t his fault – it’s an imbalance caused by Gonzalez’s unrefined vision. It’s a consistent flaw that also pairs with Gonzalez’s portrayal of PTSD, which sometimes includes literal demons following Lang.

Battle Scars may have came from a good place, but the execution is beyond muddled.

Read my interview with director/co-writer Samuel Gonzalez Jr. and co-star Arturo Castro


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