Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sunday Movie Theater: The Objective (2008)

Despair and hopelessness in broad daylight

It's still Chinese New Year festive season at the moment but I feel like reviewing this serious supernatural movie right now. ^^

This month's entry in the Sunday Movie Theater series features a combination of sci-fi, supernatural, horror, historical myths, and even some militaristic action. ^^

Movie poster is from IMDB.

Trailer of the movie.
Video clip is from Youtube. Follow this link to the website if you can't see anything.

"The Objective", a 2008 movie directed by Daniel Myrick. Technical movie details can be seen on IMDB, while the entire story is up on the movie's Wikipedia page.

Like "Pitch Black" (2008), "The Objective" was a movie I chanced upon while looking for DVD to buy many years ago. The movie premise seemed interested enough for me to decide on getting it, even though I had no idea about its existence and any of the actors involved prior to finding it. ^^; Like "Pitch Black", it turned out to be a really interesting movie on my first watch, and remains so on subsequent re-watches.

If you are familiar with "The Blair Witch Project" (1999), then the way this movie was done shouldn't seem far-fetched to you, since it was the work by the same director. I do like the former a bit more, as it was the first to introduce the self-documentary-styled horror production method, and did very well in spooking me out. XD Then again, since almost that entire movie was shot using handheld camera, I was uncomfortable when watching some of its "action scenes", especially towards the end. There's no such problem for me when I'm watching "The Objective". Not only does the movie feature very little usage of handheld camera work, majority of the scenes are set in broad daylight as well. ^^

So, while the movie is very much in the same vein as "The Blair Witch Project", and many of its scenes are genuinely scary, at least you would feel a lot more comfortable when experiencing the spook. XD

Following the same formula as "The Blair Witch Project", the story of "The Objective" guides the audience members in the discovery of the mysterious element that the protagonist, CIA Agent Benjamin Keynes (played by Jonas Ball) was assigned to investigate (his objective so to speak). The elements of horror and mystery worked very well in the movie, mainly because it seemed that we the audience members are being fed as much information as the soldiers who were tasked to help Keynes in the entire journey. There are hints as to what was haunting the team, but the exact answer was never clear. In many of the situations (scenes), only strange lights, weird sounds can be seen or heard. Limited visuals on the "enemy" were often shown on the little screen of Keynes's special camera, which obviously lacked clarity. In dealing with so much uncertainties, the confusion and terror experienced by the soldiers are not only relatable, but seemed very genuine as well.

Even though the inclusion of elements like ghost snipers, invisible tornado-like flying devices gave the movie a supernatural theme, its setting in Afghanistan during the Afghanistan War, featuring actors playing United States Special Forces members with a seemingly ordinary mission to begin with gave the movie a sense of realism. Scenes featuring the soldiers' meeting and conversation with the locals, endless barren mountains, and dry lands helped to heighten said sense of realism. For that matter, his specialty in making supernatural-themed movies with various realistic elements should be considered as the director, Daniel Myrick's most impressive strength in storytelling and movie making I suppose.

Speaking of which, the Afghanistan setting also projected a great sense of desolation and despair. The soldiers were clearly lost after the first firefight, and as the search went on, it was clear that not only did they lose their way in the mountains, they were losing their hope for survival, and for some, their sanity as well. The element of confusion and terror as mentioned earlier on worked really well in projecting that sense of hopelessness, as the soldiers continued to experienced weirder incidents as they moved deeper into the mountains. Even when their comrades were killed, nobody really knew what happened to them.

On top of the story, the creepy Middle Eastern/Indian-themed background music was used effectively to bring out the horror in all the scenes to their maximum level.

Interestingly, I didn't feel any connection to the characters of the movie. The journey taken by the characters to fulfill their mission watched like a documentary to me - Keynes's narration after most of the major scenes certainly gave the movie that sense. As the main character, I suppose Keynes is the character we the audience member should identify with, but he was shown to be too focused on his job, and lacked all emotions a normal person should have in some of the situations. ^^; I don't know if that should be seen as a compliment to Jonas Ball's impressive performance as a CIA agent with hidden agenda, or he was an extremely stoic character who seemed almost impossible to relate to. ^^;

Much like "The Blair Witch Project" (again), "The Objective" has a rather bizarre ending. ^^; It doesn't end abruptly like the former, but there are still many questions remained unanswered. The open ending was designed to be so by the storyteller I suppose, since the story never gave a definite answer as to what was causing all the strange and horrible happenings to Keynes and his men. In that sense, the whole movie is pretty much just a chronicle of strange, fatal events happening to a group of United States soldiers in the mountains of Afghanistan. The movie's bizarre ending reflects the lack of reasoning and resolution to the entire incident.

Overall, "The Objective" is an interesting movie which used various elements effectively to tell a horror story. It's not exactly thought-provoking, as the sci-fi and supernatural elements used in the story were based off established historical myths, but the movie is genuinely spooky in many scenes, and given the movie's genre, it's definitely a good movie if it's genuinely scary. ^^

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