Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Author(s): Al
Location: NY


Directed by Stephen Soderbergh
Written by Stephen Soderbergh

Principal Cast:

Charia Kasban: Shohreh Aghdashloo
Mohammed Kasban: Naveen Andrews
Mark Raskin: Topher Grace
Joe Isdromer: Keith Robinson
Nathan French: Shia LaBeouf
Jessie Arbor: Brittany Murphy
Caleb Storker: Cillian Murphy
Wallace James: Dennis Quaid
Renti Kasban: Sendhil Ramamurthy

Tagline: “N/A"

Synopsis: You see the news footage. You read the reports. But learn the real stories of 10 people whose lives will have been altered irrevocably by the Iraqi war. Meet Mark Raskin, a sensitive but hardened soldier who wants to end his 6-year tour in the army and return home to his girlfriend (and son). Live alongside Nathan French, a smart, capable, and idealistic young man who joined the Reserves in order to pay for his college education but got deployed too soon. Take a walk in the shoes of Joe Isdromer, a black youth who drops out of high school and enlists so he can support his young sister and caring single mother. See life through the eyes of Jessie, a female soldier facing extreme prejudice and harassment during her tour of duty, and Caleb, a sadistic man who enjoys torturing Iraqis and making Jessie’s life hell. Learn the story of Wallace James, the leader of their unit who must make his soldiers co-operate against a powerful, disorganized militia. And finally, experience the heartbreak of Charia Kasban, an Iraqi mother of two whose husband Mohammed leaves home to join the insurgency at the urging of his brother Renti. All these stories collide in one explosive battle from which not all of them will return.

What the press would say:

Crash. Fast Food Nation. Traffic. You’ve seen them all, the ensemble dramas that include multiple stories that connect over one explosive issue. Well I’ll tell you now that “Sandstorm” blows them all out of the water with its emotional portrayal of the polarizing war in Iraq. When I first heard about the movie, I was skeptical, thinking it would just be another one of the aforementioned similar movies (especially since it’s written and directed by the Oscar-winning director of “Traffic”, Stephen Soderbergh), but it just blows them, multiple Oscars and all, out of the water. Sandstorm attains an emotional center not seen in movies in a long time, in what Topher Grace’s character says to Shia LaBeouf’s in one scene, the “sandstorm”. Even in the middle of a battle, Soderbergh’s camera shows close-ups of the intense faces on either side. We can see their inner anguish when a comrade falls, though they keep their faces tight and blank.

The actors remarkably know how to react at every turn (most of them opted to spend 3 weeks alongside real soldiers and Iraq veterans), and every one of them gives a great performance. Topher Grace, apparently classified as the lead actor, is amazing as the conflicted soldier with a son and girlfriend back home. He’s consistently proven he can handle dramatic material after his stint on “That 70’s Show”, and his prowess shines through here. Brittany Murphy also deserves note as the sexually harassed female soldier. Though she’s known for comedy, she brings a deep, scarred center to a role that could have been a clichéd write-off. Keith Robinson, best known for his work on NBC’s “American Dreams” and in “Dreamgirls”, is also amazing. His performance as a naïve black youth enlisting to support his family is one of the most emotionally potent in the film. The scene in which he’s distraught back at the base after one of the soldiers is killed is heart-wrenching and eye-opening to us all about how strong a bond these young men and women grow after watching one another die. This is also evident in Shia LaBeouf’s performance as an idealistic young man trying to pay for college. LaBeouf now has shown us all what far a range he has, and I expect this film will bring him the mainstream and critical acclaim he deserves. Cillian Murphy does another great job as the twisted, perverse, and sadistic soldier (and the movie’s de facto villain, since all the Iraqis are portrayed sympathetically), though I wonder when he will break out into other types of roles. Naveen Andrews and Dennis Quaid also do very well. Shohreh Aghdashaloo is also heartbreaking in her limited role as Naveen Andrews’ wife.

Many films try and fail at creating compelling characters, interlocking plotlines, and “issue” stories. But “Sandstorm” is the real deal. For a war in which we don’t always know what to believe, Soderbergh’s film dramatizes it enough for us to see the emotions among these men and women overseas. I would consider it one of the greatest films of the year, and a serious frontrunner for the awards barrage. It definitely deserves consideration in the following categories:

Best Picture (AMPAS)
Best Picture-Drama (HFPA)
Best Ensemble Cast (SAG)
Best Director: Stephen Soderbergh
Best Original Screenplay: Steven Soderbergh
Best Actor: Topher Grace
Best Supporting Actor: Cillian Murphy
Best Supporting Actor: Keith Robinson
Best Supporting Actor: Shia LaBeouf
Best Supporting Actress: Shohreh Aghdashaloo
Best Supporting Actress: Brittany Murphy

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