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‘Man Down,’ though messy, delivers a powerful message of war

Director Dito Montiel gets points for aiming beyond his usual New York-set crime dramas, but the final product of “Man Down” never reaches its ambitions.

The thriller spans three time periods, features a score from Darren Aronofsky favorite Clint Mansell and boasts a cast that includes Shia LaBeouf, Gary Oldman, Kate Mara and Clifton Collins Jr. However, all that talent and effort amounts to a messy movie that has a powerful message but struggles to communicate it with clarity and without an excess of sentimentality.

“Man Down” begins in a post-apocalyptic America where Marine Gabriel Drummer (LaBeouf, rising above the material) searches for his missing wife (Mara) and son (Charlie Shotwell). Joined by his longtime friend and fellow soldier Devin Roberts (Jai Courtney), he scours burned-out buildings against a smoke-filled sky. The story flashes back to an inquiry about an unnamed incident that finds Drummer interviewed by a counselor (Oldman), as well as to Drummer’s time before and during his deployment to Afghanistan.

Montiel’s film gives the trauma of modern war its just due, and LaBeouf ably shares his character’s pain and continuing struggle. Meanwhile, both the scenes set in war and in the smoking husk of Drummer’s home suffer from poor CGI that dull their effects on the audience, even while the cast tries their best. Both they and the cause of veterans returning home deserve better.

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‘Man Down’

Rating: R, for some disturbing violence and language throughout.

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Playing: In general release

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