Film Review: An absurd society devours its young and scars their parents in 'Foxtrot'
Foxtrot is an anti-war film unlike any you've ever seen. Foxtrot is a dark comedy that's too sad to laugh at. I don't think I have it in me to re-watch Foxtrot.
But don't let that dissuade you from seeing this as soon as you can. It's potent and exhilarating as it carries you along its series of surreally staged imagery, violent sound effects, and soulful performances you completely believe in for every single second. The presentation is extraordinary.
The story is utterly involving too. It's writer/director Samuel Moaz' third feature film. If you didn't know any better, you'd swear up an down that this story was being guided by an elder master. Its plot is simple: A family face up to their problems when something goes horribly wrong at their son's desolate military outpost.
The film is divided up into three narratives. The first is told from the father's point of view, who's received terrible news concerning his only son. It's filmed with cold symmetry. The father commits heinous, terribly human acts fuelled by confusion and rage within these handsomely rigid frames.
The second is from his son's point of view, a recently enlisted young man stationed at a desolate outpost. Though the boy is in an environment where the threat of violence never completely goes away, there's a whimsical and fanciful quality about this narrative thread, suggesting imagination attempting to compensate for infinite boredom, and the last gasps of innocence.
The final narrative from the mother's point of view bridges the father's steeliness and the boy's dreaminess. It's filmed without the father's cold rigidity or the boy's airiness, but everything has a mournful blue filter over it. It's perhaps the most affecting part of Foxtrot.
Foxtrot transitions between these three tones and stories flawlessly. No title cards or exposition is present, nor is it necessary.
As Foxtrot goes along, you'll find yourself mentally piecing together what it's adding up to beyond the mechanics of its plot and characters. It's that hypnotic. What Moaz communicates about the devastating waves of fresh grief and festering emotional wounds is what cinema is made for, frankly; some things just can't be put into words, but they can be filmed.
This portrait of an absurd, broken society that swallows its able-bodied boys and decree that they kill and humiliate with impunity remains etched in my mind. The clever structure of the story, the circularity of it, implies that there's no solution to this fundamental problem that wastes and wrecks so many lives for no gain. Indeed, it's in the name. A foxtrot dance ends exactly where it begins.
For a film with only three characters, Foxtrot contains a lot of twists and turns. Right up until the bitterly cruel final scene, it never stops surprising. Or perhaps it's a wickedly funny final scene. It's a matter of perspective.
It's best to leave it at that so you can experience it for yourself. What an experience.