Love and Honor opens in limited release tomorrow, March 22nd
After killing and being killed, the most common activity for a soldier on the battlefield—if their representation in cinema is to be trusted—is the trading of tales of the girl back home. Weather-beaten pictures; tear-streaked letters; wistful reminiscences: each form a crucial role in the maintenance of that virginal idyll of the woman in waiting. It’s no surprise, then, that lovelorn Dalton takes his brief leave from duty in Vietnam as an opportunity to return home and reclaim his fractured romance. Her newfound fondness for the anti-war movement forms the basis of Love and Honor’s narrative drive; torn between her and Mickey, the fellow soldier who accompanies him for support, Dalton finds himself caught at the crossroads of love and duty.
Liam Hemsworth fulfils the requirements of the role of Mickey precisely, which is less a commendation than an acknowledgement that his sculptured physique accurately befits the prototypical image of masculinity the film all too keenly approbates.
Offering just his second lead performance after solid supporting work in two 2012 blockbusters, Liam Hemsworth fulfils the requirements of the role of Mickey precisely, which is less a commendation than an acknowledgement that his sculptured physique accurately befits the prototypical image of masculinity the film all too keenly approbates. Approaching his period of leave as an assignment to ingratiate himself with the most attractive circle of women he can lay his lecherous eyes on, Mickey seems less a character than a confluence of negative stereotypes of the movie military man. Subversive intent must surely be the cause of so hideously boisterous and borderline misogynistic a protagonist, yet as the clock winds on so too does the realisation dawn that our sympathies are indeed being solicited for this character, his grating self-assuredness played not as an incarnation of the follies of gun-toting imperialism, but as a celebration of his awesomeness.
The irksome qualities of Mickey’s character are only exacerbated by the simple fact that his very existence has no meaningful bearing on either the narrative or thematic trajectories of the film. Quite why he assumes the role of protagonist is precisely the sort of mystery in which Jim Burnstein and Garrett K. Schiff’s script trades in abundance: all functional narrative and emotional conflict rests within the confines of Dalton’s share of the story; Mickey serves solely to accentuate the military commitment already extensively evinced, rendering him not just a main character less interesting than those around him, but one bereft of any raison d’être of his own.
So terrified to commit to any form of statement either side of the fence is Love and Honor that it contrives a situation where enough characters are symmetrically placed either side in positions near and far to satisfy every possible political proclivity.
Credit where it’s due: Love and Honor does deign to suggest that perhaps Mickey’s philandering isn’t the most marvellous of personality traits, steering him toward committed romance with Teresa Palmer’s Candace, who naturally overthrows his ignoble inclinations immediately. Theirs is the sort of romance defined by midday dips in picturesque ponds, headfirst falls into maudlin sentimentality, and a profound promise to spend their lives together, all after little more than half a day in each other’s company. Rather than elect to examine the fallacy of the garish military-facilitated masculinity complex from which Mickey clearly suffers, the film has its issues solved by an incessant sequence of ancient conventions, abandoning every trace of interesting subject matter it hints at in favour of the safest exit available. Burnstein and Schiff seem determined to meet each flickering spark of subversive possibility with a bucket of water, dousing all potential for meaningful commentary and putting in its place an iron-cast cliché.
For all the perfectly decent work of Hemsworth and his cast mates, not to mention a competent—albeit impersonal—debut from director Danny Mooney, all are overshadowed by a cliché-ridden calamity of a script as interminably dull as it is ideologically bankrupt. Any narrative rooted in the most morally questionable conflict in United States military history comes automatically loaded with modern relevance; for a film to not just misuse this, but to actively attempt to ignore it with a romance-by-numbers diversion, is nothing more than cowardly. So terrified to commit to any form of statement either side of the fence is Love and Honor that it contrives a situation where enough characters are symmetrically placed either side in positions near and far to satisfy every possible political proclivity. It’s less a logical endpoint for the respective characters than it is a shamelessly safe effort for the film to not just have its cake and eat it too, but to save some for the whole family—in-laws and all—and keep the leftovers for the dog.
[notification type=”star”]30/100 ~ AWFUL. All decent work in Love and Honor is overshadowed by a cliché-ridden calamity of a script as interminably dull as it is ideologically bankrupt.[/notification]