Judge Jason Panella pledges allegiance to the flag of the...you know the rest.
War Begins Before Deployment.
While most military related movies tend to focus on combat, Allegiance does something a little different. It's a well-acted, well-thought out movie centering on internal (not external) conflict off of the battlefield, and it doesn't shy away from tricky moral questions. So why does the film's 90-minute runtime feel like an eternity?
Facts of the Case
Lt. Danny Sefton (Seth Gabal, Fringe) is a happy man—his transfer to a new National Guard unit in upstate New York has been approved, and he'll be close to his family and his fiancee. Sefton's current unit—the men he's served with for a number of years—are not happy, however. They're about to ship out to Iraq, and they're not too pleased that their soon-to-be former commander is figuratively (and maybe literally) dodging a bullet with a cushy stateside desk job. On his last day with the unit, Sefton is faced with a moral dilemma involving an AWOL soldier that might change everything.
Allegiance is the first full-length work from writer/director Michael Connors, and the movie is essentially a beefed-up version of Connors's debut short Recalled. This one has a lot going for it, but I can't help but think the movie should have stayed a short.
Let's talk about the good things, though. The cast, mostly made up of actors known for supporting roles in bigger projects, handles the material quite well. Pablo Schreider (Nick Sobotka in The Wire) is great as Lt. Chambers, the battle-scarred—emotionally and physically—replacement for Sefton. Aidan Quinn (Legends of the Fall) has a small part as a high-ranking officer, but sells every minute he's on screen. Even the dudes who play the National Guardsmen (including Malik Yoba, Ice the Bounty Hunter/Caterer from Arrested Development) lend an air of Average Joe-ness to their parts. The real knockout, though, is Shad "Bow Wow" Moss as Spc. Chris Reyes, a young father willing to desert his unit so he can be with his terminally ill son. Moss never overplays the part, and really holds the first part of the movie together.
Allegiance is set in 2004, when National Guard units were being called up overnight to deploy to combat zones in the Iraq. Connors sets up some complexities with this historical context: possible class and racial privilege, for instance, looms over so much of the film. How did Reyes get his request for transfer turned down, especially considering his son's cancer? What sort of favoritism was involved in yanking Sefton's butt out of the fire? Where will duty and guilt come into the equation?
It's great that the movie puts these questions out there; not doing anything with the questions, though, is where Allegiance gets gut shot. With the introduction of the ethical complexities in the first half of the movie, the second half is just a bunch of padding, as if Connors just added some stuff to get the movie up to feature length. Lots of people shout at each other, some people run around in the dark, and even more people shout at each other. Plus, we get an ending that feel like an abandonment of the nuanced stuff that came earlier. The result: a 90 minute movie that feels twice as long.
The Allegiance Blu-ray/DVD combo pack gets the budget treatment from Xlrator. The 2.35:1/1080p non-anamorphic transfer is sharp, but more than anything highlights how washed-out the movie looks. The DTS-HD Master Audio track is also quite clear, though it puts the bland score from Immediate front and center. For bonuses, we get a commentary track (with Connors, Gabal, and producer Sean Mullin), the movie's trailer, and a throw-away featurette.
Allegiance has a lot going for it, but the promise it shows early on gets squandered a bit by the end. The result is pretty mediocre movie. Here's hoping that Connors works some of these kinks out before his next film.
Case went AWOL, sir.
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Studio: XLrator Media
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