An anti-war film like Lewis Milestone’s “All Quiet On The Western Front” or Terrence Malick’s “The Thin Red Line” is made nice by the humanism in the middle. These movies put the troopers, their lives, and their souls, above the battle sequences or patriotic sentiment. “Foxhole,” written and directed by Jack Fessenden, goals for such heights. Working with a small solid taking part in characters of the identical identity in three wars unfold over three totally different centuries—the American Civil Warfare, World Warfare I, and the Iraq Warfare—Fessenden wrestles with themes of responsibility, honor, and most significantly empathy.
Bookending his movie with pictures of a discipline crammed with bloodied, useless troopers, Fessenden instantly instills a way of the futility of struggle. “The privilege of service seems to wither as each battle passes and what remains in the soul is not the glory of combat, but the horror of its aftermath,” a voiceover echoes within the fog. It’s by this poetic Malick-Esque dialogue that his characters present how a particular person’s humanity and goodness can endure even in the course of no man’s land.
We first meet his core solid in the course of the American Civil Warfare, the place Jackson (Motell Gyn Foster), a Black soldier, is wounded in a hand-to-hand fight with an Accomplice soldier (Asa Spurlock). After killing him, Jackson makes his strategy to a foxhole being dug by fellow Union troopers Clark (Cody Kostro), Conrad (Angus O’Brien), Morton (Alex Hurt), and Wilson (James LeGros). The troopers then debate whether or not their responsibility is to proceed to dig or to take the wounded Jackson by stretcher to the closest medics.
Right here Fessenden imbues his movie with an added layer of social consciousness. One soldier dares to ask Jackson if he had been “free” earlier than he signed up, calls him the n-word, and debates with the others as if it’s their responsibility to maintain digging or to assist this one, Black man. To have a Union soldier be this overtly racist subverts the parable that every one trooper combating the Union aspect of the American Civil Warfare had been abolitionist. This exploration of how Jackson’s race impacts his place inside the navy turns into a throughline in the following two segments.
A smash lower to the WWI section sees a younger German soldier drop into the group’s trench, the place they now debate whether or not they need to kill him or if he’s only a “scared boy running from his fate” like the remainder of them. Right here Jackson’s autonomy is questioned once more. When requested what he’s combating for he responds, “Same thing as you … democracy.” Whereas the dialogue is a bit on the nostril, Motell Gyn Foster sells it with uncooked authenticity.
His dynamic within the group adjustments once more within the closing sequence. Now stranded in a Humvee someplace in Iraq, Jackson is their chief and their group is joined by a feminine soldier, Gale (Andi Matichak). Right here Jackson sheds the calculated timidity of his earlier characters, embracing his charisma as a born chief. Whereas all of the actors concerned deal with the wordy script with aplomb, particularly indie-staple James LeGros who at all times brings a marked gravitas to any position irrespective of the dimensions, Foster is given the meatiest position and proves a gentle anchor for Fessenden’s weighty aspirations. That stated the movie’s exploration of race and intercourse inside the navy is generally surface-level, without a lot of perception of past illustration issues model perception.
Largely filmed within the Hudson Valley, “Foxhole” overcomes its restricted funds and restricted areas with Collin Brazie’s beautiful cinematography, which makes use of totally different lenses for every sequence to present them in a definitely visible language. Heavy fog is used for the American Civil Warfare section, obfuscating their imaginative and prescient and including a foreboding tone. The WWI trench is surrounded by a pitch black sky and shot in an ominous monochrome shade grade paying homage to G.W. Pabst’s harrowing “Westfront 1918.” Through the Iraq section blinding solar obscures all the pieces exterior of their stranded Humvee. The similarities of the troopers’ existential expertise no matter which struggles their combating are made all the extra clear by creating such stark variations within the visuals of every struggle.
Fessenden’s tripartite chamber piece “Foxhole” has its coronary heart in the precise place and wears its influences unabashedly on its sleeve. Whereas it doesn’t fairly reside as much as its grand ambitions, it’s refreshing to see a film so fantastically and sleekly filmed try to wrestle with humanity’s deeper questions. “Foxhole” won’t be within the prime tier of the nice anti-war movie canon, however, it’s not too distant.