Monday, May 26, 2014

Film Review: Dust of War (2013)

Copyright: Dust of War (2013)
Dust of War is an action adventure that works perfectly in concept. In a distant future, an alien invasion decimated our planet, and now, warring tribes fight over dominance while the mostly unseen, yet much feared alien masters pull the strings. A girl called Ellie is the key for the salvation of the entire humanity, but she is being held in a camp controlled by a ruthless warlord. Two mercenaries are sent on a covert mission to save her from a very unpleasant future, and give man a fighting chance.

Andrew Kightlinger, a veteran of several short features, directed Dust of War as his first feature length film. It’s obvious that Kightlinger worked diligently on the screenplay and polished it to action perfection. Every known and needed element is present in this film, starting with the damsel in distress.

Also, almost every imaginable post-apocalyptic character is in the script, and even the main antagonist called the General has two separate henchmen lieutenants that slowly build up their unique brand of evilness, and are bound to perish in two distinct but gruesome ways. Able, the main mercenary is quiet and lethal, while his older, cynical partner is everything but quiet. There is even a Native American tracker in the film!

When the gang frees their target, they set off on a journey across the deserted lands of the broken US. Here, Kightlinger tried to move the film towards a more atmospheric piece, using long shot of the beautiful but strangely barren lands of South Dakota. This approach works to a point, but the thing that is hampering it is the abundance of characters who in one way or the other break the visual aesthetics. Usually when most of them open their mouths to produce one-liners, the contemplating nature of the film is quickly lost. It seems to me that only Tony Todd found a way to blend into this subtle atmosphere of gentle decay and destruction.

The biggest problems of the film can be found on micro and macro level. The gang travels without water or change of clothes, but in spite of this, Ellie keeps her makeup in perfect condition. Also, her trousers remain crispy clean, even though she is captured and mishandled several times. The protagonist use weapons from Second World War, like M1 Garand rifles, while their uniforms come from the Civil War era. This was probably due to the fact that these props were available to the crew, but the film doesn’t even try to somehow incorporate this in the storyline.

The macro problem is the setup of this post-apocalyptic universe. Who are the aliens, do they even appear in the film or do they use human subjects in armor to carry out their bidding, and what is Ellie supposed to do are all questions which remain a mystery. Even if the authors were aiming for a sequel, these things shouldn’t be left in the open to slowly die in the imagination of the viewers.

Dust of War is a film that was a product of great ambition. Andrew Kightlinger and many of the actors really did the best job they could, but I would like to see more planning and a stronger Q and A process go into the director’s next movie. In that case, I am certain that a far better piece of cinema can be created.

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