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Objective, The
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by Jay Seaver

"An idea this good should be much more exciting."
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2008 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: There are roughly a dozen good movies you could make with the hook stated at the beginning of "The Objective". The trouble, unfortunately, is that most of them would require more money than Daniel Myrick apparently had to work with. Sure, he's been part of a gigantic hit on a budget before, but "The Blair Witch Project" was small by design; this needed to be bigger.

That hook? That on September 14, 2001, CIA satellite imagery picked up a hot spot in the mountains of Afghanistan - heat and radiation similar to the detonation of a small atomic device. They send Ben Keynes (Jonas Ball) to the area to investigate; he hooks up with a special forces team led by Matthew Anderson's Wally, telling them that they are looking for a cleric - who is, in fact, a good source of intel. What he doesn't tell them is that the CIA thinks that this could be a much bigger deal than a mere atomic bomb.

Given the apparent budget Myrick and the other filmmakers had to work with, creating something of the scale Keynes describes probably isn't going to happen - you're not going to get the teaser where something explodes in the desert, or cuts to a situation room in Washington, where a potential atomic or paranormal threat just days after 9/11 is given the constant attention it deserves. Instead, there's a small team that doesn't get any chance at all to show they're elite troops, walking around a featureless desert. Most of the good stuff is being saved for the finale minutes.

Okay, fine. There's not a lot of money, but even taking that into account, Myrick and his co-writers make what seems like a paralyzing mistake by having Keynes narrate the film. A lot. Aside from the fact that Jonas Ball doesn't really have a good voice for it, and that every minute that's spent on someone doing voiceover is a minute where something is not actually happening, it's pretty groan-worthy stuff, talking about how Keynes spent a lot of time in Afghanistan ten years ago, and it was really bad then, too, or how, man, if these guys knew... That's the other big problem with it - the filmmakers lose the battle between giving the audience some insight and not giving later surprises away. In fact, I'm reasonably sure that much of the movie would play as more suspenseful and interesting if they just dropped the narration altogether.

Ball's just not that impressive overall, certainly not the sort of discovery that merits an "Introducing" credit (aside from the fact that he's already starred in The Killing of John Lennon). There's no expression to his voice, nothing to indicate he's more than some type of drone other than what he tells us about his history. I was kind of surprised to find that most of the rest of the cast actually is ex-military, because they don't feel authentic on-screen. There's irony in that, I suppose, but if the real thing can't make something feel right, they're either staying too close to a bad script or just lacking the ability to project as characters. They're a pretty bland bunch, anyway.

If everything is disappointing, that puts co-writer/director Myrick square in the crosshairs. He pulls off a couple of nifty jump moments, I'll grant - although, to further illustrate how bad the narration is, I have to point out that he undercuts one badly; there's a nifty scene where approaching headlights turn out to be something else, and the narration follows it up with a buzz-killing "oh, so that's what so-and-so meant by such-and-such". Nice way to have your audience no longer freaking out there. The last couple minutes before the credits is also fairly spiffy. I did find myself wondering whether he was consciously or unconsciously trying to recreate the success of The Blair Witch Project at times - although some of the devices are universal, adding up the getting lost in a landscape that seems to change and screw with compasses, fighting among the party, crude wooden symbols, and abject refusal to fully reveal what is happening seems to indicate that for one reason or another, he was going with what had worked before.

That's kind of disappointing. I loved "Blair Witch" and wondered why the folks who made one of the most exciting and important horror movies of their generation couldn't seem to get arrested afterward; "The Objective" makes at least one of them look like a one-trick pony, with pulling off that one trick kind of a fluke.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17621&reviewer=371
originally posted: 07/12/08 01:16:28
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2008 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/10/09 Corky Eerie and atmospheric as heck- but no payoff... 3 stars
10/22/08 marvin baker I think it is a higher budget knockoff of "Afghan Knights" look at both trailers, 2 stars
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  DVD: 13-Oct-2009


  DVD: 13-Oct-2009

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