Stars: Alexander Ludwig, Tyler Hynes, Chris Brochu, Sam Keeley, Franco Nero, Locklyn Munro and Christie Burke
Director: Robert David Port
Scriptwriter: Robert David Port from the novel by Richard Bausch
Composers: Anders Niska and Klas Wahl
Cinematography: Edd Lukas
Rating: R for war violence
Running Length: 96 Minutes
If you wonder where Alexander Ludwig has been since the completion of the television series, “Vikings,” he was filming “Recon,” previously known as “Peace.” Taking command of a group seems to come natural to this actor. In “Recon,” he portrays the character of Marson, who becomes in charge of a small band of soldiers in northern Italy, during WWII. The movie is shot in tones of grey, white and black, adding to the solemn content of this material and because it is winter in the high country and the only other color is red, the color of blood. Edd Lukas’ cinematography will make you gradually cold, as the audience goes further into the storyline of war violence and who to trust. Facial expressions are caught and so are the vistas of the mountains. Also, in the cast are Franco Nero as an elderly Italian soldier and Lochlyn Munro as Marson’s commanding officer later in the film. Director/Scriptwriter Robert David Port based his film on a true incident.
The movie begins when a group of soldiers meets an old farmer with a cart of produce. The soldiers think someone is hidden there and they are right—a Nazi soldier and before anyone can react peacefully, an order is given, an innocent is shot and the men murmur against their officer (Tyler Hynes.) He divides the group into two parts and takes one group, while assigning Marson to lead the second group. This is the one we follow as they try to go through German-held territory to an American encampment. There are problems everywhere and the men become nervous, get on each other’s nerves, meet with an old man (Angelo) who promises to help them, and are in danger from snipers all the way. Is the word “trust” even in their vocabulary by now? Hope is like an hourglass whose sands are going downward faster than one would like.
The story is partly told through flashbacks as Marson keeps remembering the scene on the road and the order given. Trying to calm himself, he has to deal with in-fighting between the men, lack of food and sleep, and no place to keep warm. Silence must be kept, too, as sound travels in the highlands, and one solder, who is a regular chatterbox, is told, “don’t open your mouth again unless to breathe.” It doesn’t help to find bodies of soldiers who were killed by snipers.
Tension builds as the men trek through open snow plains and wooded areas. Are they alone?
Acting is good and ranges from the taunt Marson (Ludwig) to the talkative Ash (Chris Brochu looking much like Gary Burghoff from "M*A*S*H) The men have to lean on each other for moral support and then deal with their personal habits that can be irritating. Just when you chuckle over someone’s comment, there is an unusual sound to disturb the moment. The audience begins to get the feel of being alone, really alone.
The film caught me at the beginning and I wanted to see what would happen to this group of men. The camera has close-ups to add to the tension and then the wide vistas of the mountains to show the aloneness of it all. Composers Anders Niska and Klas Wahl have the music right and in just the right places. There are surprises here and war violence and the immediacy of decisions. The original title of this film was “Peace,” but “Recon” is a better fit.