SAND CASTLE is Netflix’s admirable foray into war dramas
Private Matt Ocre, played by Nicholas Hoult (Mad Max: Fury Road), is an Army Reserveman, called upon to serve his country in the Second Gulf War. But he’s reluctant. He didn’t join to necessarily serve his country, he did it for the free college tuition. He desperately schemes to escape deployment to the frontline, but it’s a lost cause. His engineer squadron is headed to repair critical water pipes damaged by American bombings. Special Forces Captain Syverson, played by Henry Cavill (Batman V Superman) leads the operation in a small war-torn village. The engineers require help from Iraqi villagers to repair the damage, but they don’t trust the occupying force will protect them from the Hussein-faithfuls threatening their lives if they interact with Americans. Ocre and his squadron are thrust into securing the village from saboteurs.
Coming to Netflix on April 21st, Sand Castle is the streaming giant’s foray into producing war films in the spirit of Black Hawk Down and The Hurt Locker, but at a much smaller scale and budget. It’s an engaging piece of material well-suited for at-home consumption, but lacks that punch viewers are treated to in larger blockbusters faire. Hoult, of whom I’m a big fan, seemingly gets lost behind the camo and dirt. His character avoids the typical trope of inspired enlistment to hating war, but instead hates his enlistment but comes to be inspired by the loss of his war brothers. Cavill is mostly eye candy, serving as the imposing commando and draped in the only color besides beige, which is to say, Sand Castle isn’t captivating visually.
Sand Castle tells us a story about the distrust between occupying forces and the occupied. Netflix veteran, Narcos director, Fernando Coimbra momentarily bridges that gap but shocks with a finale that reminds us that our Middle East ambitions are futile.