‘Man Down” is an indictment of war, and its message is one that focuses on its terrible lingering consequences — specifically, veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With many ending up homeless, suffering mental difficulties or becoming suicidal, PTSD is a real issue. According to a 2013 United States Department of Veterans Affairs study, 22 vets take their own lives per day. This a number used in the film, and yet Dito Montiel’s tight, tense tale about a U.S. Marine returning from Afghanistan still manages to hide a tiny fragment of celebration — not of war exactly, but of the masculinity associated with it.
Montiel’s film offers a disturbing but also slightly intriguing view into the mindscapes of two men who once thrived on the battlefield: Gabriel Drummer (played by Shia LaBeouf, whose biggest roles have been as soldiers, including “Fury” in 2014) and his pal Devin Roberts (Jai Courtney, who looks like he was born with triceps and wearing fatigues).