MPI // 2009 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // October 23rd, 2009
We haven't seen the real enemy
In 1999, Dan Myrick was a co-creator of one of the most phenomenally successful horror movies of all time, The Bair Witch Project. The world was infatuated with his down and dirty tale of three kids lost in the woods, being hunted by some unforeseen and ruthless evil. In 2009 he's still remembered as the creator of that film, but that sadly remains all he's known for. Myrick has failed to deliver a decent follow-up to his stunningly clever debut, pandering in subsequent years to more formulaic cinematic conceits and even seeing some of his efforts go straight to DVD. The Objective was earlier this year released in a tiny number of theatres, and so it's certainly not going to be the movie to restore his box-office credibility. However is it a return to filmmaking form? Could it be the movie to lead him back to the desired career track and onto better things? Can he successfully create a film without the help of Blair Witch co-conspirator Ed Sanchez?
The answer to all three on the evidence of The Objective is unfortunately no, no he can't.
The year is 2001, the setting only weeks after the tragedy of 9/11. A CIA Operative Benjamin Keynes (Jonas Ball, The Killing of John Lennon) is leading a group of US Special Forces guys through Afghanistan, in the search for a local Cleric. It's suspected the man has a link to a cache of deadly weapons, which could be used to deadly effect by Terrorists. They are guided into the harsh and Taliban infested mountain regions but when there, they discover the only threat might not be human but also supernatural.
The Objective isn't the worst movie to surface this year, but it is undeniably bad. Myrick has taken an interesting concept, a fresh cast, and some intriguing set-pieces but smothered them with patchy storytelling and lazy screenwriting. The first half isn't particularly great but it is passable, the flaws however become far more noticeable and grating in the final section. Myrick even mirrors The Blair Witch Project on a few uncreative occasions; he says in the special features that he wanted to distance himself from that movie, yet some of the similarities here are obvious to the point of parody.
The setting and idea are pretty cool, certainly ripe for a good old palm sweater in the vein of Blair Witch. In fairness there are moments where Myrick capitalizes on the nifty concept, an energetic firefight and supernatural attack in the pitch black do evoke a sense of excitement and menace that deserve congratulations. Hell, there are moments in The Objective that are downright enjoyable. However, these moments of brilliance only go to make the rest of the picture even more disappointing, its lack of imagination and shitty writing grating big time. I will clarify that it's not the lack of creativity in the central concept I have an issue with, it's the complete void of fresh filmmaking that causes me to weep. The execution for long stretches of time is seriously formulaic and there are moments where the production seems to meander through scenes of excruciating nothingness. Basically the idea is sound, the rest is not.
The script is fatally unfocused and the dialogue seems lifted right out of screenwriting 101. This lack of spark translates directly into the characters, a few of which get nothing more than a few lines of personal reflection. At 90 minutes, The Objective could have been much shorter, there are at least 15 minutes worth of film that add nothing to the overall experience. A firmer hand in the editing suite would have been highly beneficial, after all 75 minutes of vague disappointment is far preferable to the same commodity strung out to 90. A voice-over is also deployed, which as everyone knows is a sure sign of narrative uncertainty from the filmmakers. It's certainly not the worst thing about The Objective, yet its very presence screams of a director struggling to tell his story without relying on crude and obvious gimmicks to disguise the various flaws.
The acting is uninspired yet not terrible; the lack of sympathy felt for the characters more a result of poor writing rather than rubbish performances. As the head of the team Jonas Ball is oddly intriguing, and carries out the narration duties with enough of a serious face to excuse the occasionally embarrassing dialogue. Everyone else is much the same, reasonably okay but lacking depth or much emotion. Blair Witch fans should notice Michael Williams, who played one of that film's doomed protagonists. Here he has a beard but far less in the way of interesting scripting or camera work to exploit. Still, the bearded look is working, so that's something.
The antagonist in The Objective is menacing for the first half, but loses its power when all is revealed in the second. Blair Witch never even outright confirmed that the villain was real and the mythos built around her was terrifying, here it's a lot less complex and the visual incarnation just goes to make it sort of ridiculous. There are also instances where Myrick cribs shamelessly from his 1999 offering, namely the appearance of ominous wooden symbols and the unexplained disappearance of one team member. Those who haven't seen Blair Witch sine its release might not be so bothered but I've watched it a few times since and thus was able to recognize the similar aspects pretty quickly. The cinematography is pretty decent for a low budget movie though the musical score is thoroughly unmemorable.
The film looks sharp enough on DVD and comes with a few bonus features. Two interviews are provided one with director the other with the DOP, neither of which is really that revolutionary and even together they run for under 10 minutes. More complete and insightful is the 17 minute making of, which offers a more rounded and in depth examination of the project. Everyone seems worryingly pleased with the finished article, yet amidst the gushing, viewers get some solid filmmaking info.
Is it unfair to use Myrick's past achievements so heavily against him when assessing his post-Blair Witch work? The answer is probably not. Yet even in contrast to more ordinary horror offerings The Objective would still feel flawed and lacking in genuine terror, so maybe it doesn't matter.
Plus even though Blair Witch was over 10 years ago, Myrick still probably bathes in cash. So he deserves it, because he's rich and I'm not.
Myrick needs to change his own objective to making "good" films again. During August 2009, he spoke of Blair Witch 3, which is apparently closer to filming than most would believe, so maybe he'll get his chance for redemption with that one.
On the subject of The Objective, you can afford to skip it.
Audiences will be in need of airborne extraction during the viewing process.
The Objective is guilty of marking another shortcoming for a Blair
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site