Debut director Phil Blattenberger’s Point Man goes hard and heavy on the dogs of war in an award-winning racially-charged military drama that draws enemy fire and friendly fire too close for comfort.
The very first scene entails a black soldier on the front lines getting shot in the jungles of Vietnam after leading a platoon in a firefight. We then meet our trio of black soliders central to the narrative, engaged in a debate on the presumed chance positioning of negroes in a squad of soldiers. Among the three, Andre (Christopher Long) is insistent on the affirmative that the positioning of negroes are more methodical than some choose to believe.
This serves as more of a side note to the rest of the story as it unfolds with Andre and fellow cohorts Joe (Chase Gutzman) and Felix (Marcus Bailey) joined by their platoon on a mission led by Lieutenant Sutter (Matthew Ewald) to reconnect with a unit that’s been presumably lost in the Mekong Delta. The film’s raically charged element remains ever present though as group’s machine gunner, Meeks (Jacob Keohane), seems insistent on being proverbial N-word-using thorn on Andre’s side, testing his will – and with Andre always applying an air of wisdom and level-headedness in the process amid his controlled rage.
When the team stumbles into a firefight, it’s Andre, Joe, Felix and Meeks who find themselves trapped as the VC pin them down. Sutter and the remaining team abandon them in the crossfire, ensuing the start of a treacherous and character-defining journey to the landing zone for our quartet of wayward soldiers. The very revelations that encompass the rest of the film are definitely some of the most intriguing and fuel the plot consistently through and through, including the most pivotal twist in the film that ultimately find our characters in a situation from which there is no way out.
The first of my few main gripes is pretty mininal in that this particular twist doesn’t allow for much breathing room going directly into the second half. Secondly, for a war movie, most of these actors don’t know how to react to getting shot, so many of these sequences look about as phony as the obvious muzzle flashes – the latter, thankfully not being the biggest eyesore in this low-budget affair.
Cast performances are well acted throughout, well enough that they keep you watching and not cringing. Actor Long (consider the pun as you will) takes point as the wiser of the group as they fight to survive the Vietnam jungle, in addition to Meeks’ oftentimes questionable and unhinged behavior. The performances are also what pave the way in keeping the film as gripping as it is while the narrative, at one point, seemingly switching from profound military drama to something out of The A-Team. It’s definitely a scene that will have you cheering our protagonists on just a little longer before the film reverts back to its regularly scheduled programming.
What unfolds, next to the core of the film reflects adamantly in a scene between Andre and Joe that serves as a testament to the film’s messaging apart from the racial subtext, dealing plentily into the internal quandary that questions the defining line between right and wrong, and the violent, wartorn atmosphere. The end scene bodes as all the more chilling, leaving you asking just who the real heroes are, if not what it was all for – that’s the strength of Blattenberger’s storytelling here as it balances between various subtexts and instances that leave you guessing just what kind of movie Point Man is, which really isn’t a negative.
That being said, there’s no escaping the film’s oft identity as a racial soliloquy. Between all of its moving pieces, Point Man, mininally assembled and mechanically flawed in some areas, is exactly the kind of film worth recommending. The use of racial expletives throughout may feel perpetual, but that’s the kind of ugliness I would expect in a film that takes place in the 60s where the shortfalls of being an African American are plain as day, even in uniform. Blattenberger doesn’t ignore it. He uses it as an advantage to forward the story and tell it the way he saw fit according to his own anthropological studies on the matter.
From that point on, the film is about as woke you want it to be; Its wokeness isn’t solely subject to the plight of blackness in the mid-20th century (or Asianness for that matter), but it’s a damn good place to start the narrative – the very crux of it being that the end of the day, what we do defines who we are. And that’s the point, man.
Point Man is now available on Digital for an SRP $4.99 – $9.99 Rent or Buy across all platforms and to Buy on DVD for $9.99.