“I have had enough.”
How should we think of war? Is it a romantic, idealized story of heroics? Is it hell, as General Sherman said? Do we accept that “all’s fair” in war? Are there rules of morality that we must follow to maintain our humanity? Recon, written and directed by Rob Port, uses a real event in World War II to ask some of these questions. It is interesting that the film is being brought out for Veterans Day, a day we celebrate the military. While the film is not anti-military, is certainly has a perspective that war is a morally troublesome experience.
The film follows four soldiers as they climb an Italian mountain in search of German soldiers. They are being led by an Italian man who claims to be a partisan, but they are never sure of his real loyalties. The four are haunted, to varying degrees, by having seen their sergeant murder a civilian woman. As they make their way up the mountain with the dangers of landmines and snipers, they speak of life and death, of war and justice, of right and wrong.
They are a diverse group—liberal, racist, Jewish, Catholic, different educational levels, different backgrounds. Their perspectives on the murder range widely as well. At times, their differences threaten to bring them to violence. Only their taciturn leader, Corporal Marson, manages to keep them on focus and working together. The constant danger the squad faces as it seeks the enemy and then must find its way back home give the film a familiar war film tension.
This is not just a celebration of bravery—although there is that aspect as we see these soldiers carry out their mission. It also dives into the questions about the nature of war. It is not just the murder of a civilian that is at issue. These soldiers must also make decisions of life and death. They cannot just turn off their morality or their spiritual life. To kill another human is not an inconsequential occurrence. It leaves a spiritual mark. Perhaps some people can live with that, but not everyone. This film highlights the spiritual and emotional injuries that war brings as well as the physical costs.
As the story plays out, eventually Marson will have to decide just what kind of person he is. Can he kill just because it is war, or must he respond as a human—and as a Christian. That choice will have an almost karmic effect when we read the title card post script to the film.
From the times of the early church, war was seen as problematic. Saints Augustine and Thomas Aquinas both spoke of Just War—a recognition that war is inherently evil, but at times necessary. There may be questions whether modern weapons and technology make Just War possible. Part of Just War theory is not only the justice of the cause, but also the justice and morality of how war is carried out. Recon taps into that tradition of thinking of war.
Recon show through Fathom Events on November 10 and releases in limited theaters November 13.
Photos courtesy of Brainstorm Media.