The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have inspired a slow, if steady trickle of notable films, including Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker (2008), Sam Mendes’ profane, darkly funny Jarhead (2005), the moody, affecting Woody Harrelson drama The Messenger and HBO’s superior 2008 miniseries Generation Kill.
Netflix joins the club this week with Sand Castle, an engaging, gripping fact-based drama starring Nicholas Hoult (Mad Max: Fury Road) as a young machine gunner in the U.S. Marines whose platoon is put in the impossible position of saving an Iraqi village.
It premieres Friday, April 21 on the subscription site.
Is the film an enduring classic on the order of Vietnam pictures such as The Deer Hunter (1978), Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket (1987) – or Oliver Stone’s Vietnam trilogy (Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July and Heaven on Earth)?
I’m not sure. But Sand Castle does have one winning feature: It was penned by an actual Iraq War veteran, screenwriter Chris Roessner, who based the story on his own experiences in the war. Sand Castle is the second feature from director Fernando Coimbra following his impressive and very creepy 2015 thriller A Wolf at the Door and costars Beau Knapp (Fox TV’ Shots Fired), Glen Powell (Hidden Figures), Neil Brown Jr. (Straight Outta Compton) and Henry Cavill (Man of Steel).
Other titles of note
The Founder. Micheal Keaton is sensational in director John Lee Hancock’s sardonic fact-based morality play about corporate America. He plays Ray Kroc, a Midwest salesman who built McDonald’s global empire based on a California fast food joint actually founded by two brothers named McDonald (Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch). Kroc paid the pair a nice big check for their idea, then wrote them out of history altogether. It’s out this week on all platforms.
The Young Pope. Jude Law won critical acclaim in this fictional HBO series about the life and work of the former Archbishop of New York in the first years as the new pope. The series, which was created and directed by the great Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino (Il Divo, the Great Beauty) is now available on all digital platforms and due on disc on June 6.
Fifty Shades Darker Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson, Eric Johnson and Rita Ora get all hot and heavy in director James Foley’s follow-up to the world wise publishing and film phenom, Fifty Shades of Grey. Available in rated and unrated versions, the picture is due Tuesday April 25 on all digital platforms and will come out on disc on May 9.
And don’t forget … M. Night Shyamalan’s multiple personality disorder freak-out Split, now available on all platforms, including Blur-ray/DVD. … German filmmaker Maren Ade’s deliciously freaky, strange and surreal black comedy Toni Erdmann also on all platforms. … There’s more bloodletting afoot courtesy of Kate Beckinsale a and Theo James in Underworld: Blood Wars, now available on all digital platforms and due on disc on Tuesday April 25. … And the Oscar-winning musical La La Land now available on VOD and all digital platforms and due on disc on Tuesday April 25.
Where to watch:
A selection of the most popular online video providers:
Amazon Video: www.amazon.com/video/
Google Play: https://play.google.com
Movies On Demand: www.rentmoviesondemand.com/
Vimeo On Demand: https://vimeo.com/ondemand
Video On Demand and Pay-Per-View also offered by most cable and satellite TV providers: