Netflix Original TV shows may be going great guns, but when it comes to movies there’s a distinct whiff of mediocrity. ‘Sand Castle’ doesn’t buck the trend. This Iraq war drama is solid in every department – intriguing setup, unflashy direction, decent performances from a fairly recognisable cast – but it rarely feels more than workmanlike.
Nicholas Hoult plays Private Matt Ocre, a reluctant soldier who, in the film’s first scene, slams his hand in a car door to get out of active duty. But his workshy schemes can’t last forever, and before long Ocre and his platoon are heading out to a remote desert city where, under the command of Captain Syverson (Henry Cavill) and Sergeant Harper (Logan Marshall-Green), they’re tasked with repairing a key water main that’s been busted by a stray American bomb.
‘Sand Castle’ never attempts to make noble heroes out of its soldiers. They start out loudmouthed, semi-competent and/or terrified, and finish the same way. As a microcosmic look at America’s failure in Iraq, it’s smart if a little soft-centred – the implication is that they were ‘there to help’, however misguidedly. Overall, this isn’t a bad movie. The action, when it comes, is fairly intense, and there are a handful of touching character moments. The problem is that none of it adds up to much.