Man Down is the story of U.S. Marine Gabriel Drummer (Shia LaBeouf) who fought for his country in Afghanistan only to return home to an America very different than the one he left, a post-apocalyptic hell that is no better than the war zone he just left. Accompanied by his best friend, Drummer goes on the hunt for his missing wife Natalie (Kate Mara) and their son.
Man Down marks the return to the mainstream big screen movies for LaBeouf who has been somewhat absent since his last appearance in Transformers: Dark of the Moon in 2011. He's done a few independent films and had some questioning his sanity at times. I've always been a fan of his comedy style in the Transformers movies, but hearing about him playing a post-war vet in a serious drama had me concerned. And then I saw the preview.
The preview shows a Marine raid on a house in Afghanistan. Drummer gives the "all clear" meaning there is no threat in the house. As the other Marines in his unit (including his best friend) walk in, a gun protrudes from a blanket on the floor and shots ring out at the unsuspecting Marines. Drummer survived. The preview shows Dummer talking to military counselor Peyton (Gary Oldman).
Not only does LaBeouf pull off this dramatic role, but he is quite convincing and has been hailed by Variety who said, "Labeouf achieves that authentic, hurts-to-watch approach seldom seen since the days of Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift." I gave Man Down a preemptive 3.5 star rating, thinking it would be a gut-wrenching, raw, real and intense film that is well worth the money in theatres. It was all that and more. Through much of the movie, we are watching Gabriel Drummer in four different phases: with his wife and child before the Marines; the mission in Afghanistan, his session with counselor Peyton after "the incident", and finally back in the United States that has been destroyed as he desperately searches for his wife and child with his best friend. All of this leads up to a shocking series of revelations that completely destroys Drummer's world... and his reality.
Much of Man Down reminded me of Bradley Cooper in American Sniper, but LaBeouf goes even further and darker. American Sniper was nominated for 6 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor for Cooper. Though I don't foresee Man Down being nominated for Best Picture, it would be a crime if LaBeouf isn't recognized for this role in this tragic, gripping, heart-breaking film that earned a solid 4 stars from me. I'll definitely be watching this again and it has a good chance of making it into my home collection. It's a movie that anyone who has served in our military will find extremely difficult to watch, but one that the rest of us need to see.
Review by Mark Durfor from the Internet Movie Database.