article by Connor Behrens for ArtsEarth
Director Fernando Coimbra’s latest film, “Sand Castle”, is a British war drama film released exclusively on Netflix.
Set in 2003, “Sand Castle” tells the story of a new and untested American private who learns the real cost of warfare when his military unit is directed to head a hazardous assignment to patch-up a water pumping station in a rural Iraq town.
“Sand Castle” continues Netflix’s streak of original content… but it’s not a hit. Yes, just like the recently released Adam Sandler movie, this war film starring Henry Cavill (from films such as “Man of Steel,” “Man from UNCLE”) is not overly compelling in its execution and fails to have a solid amount of dramatic heft.
The film largely focuses on Matt Ocre, played by Nicholas Hoult (“Warm Bodies,” “Mad Max: Fury Road”). This is an undeniable mistake. Hoult tries his best to provide a compelling performance in “Sand Castle.” However, there’s not much to this “fish out of the water” situation. And what’s worse is that audiences have seen this side of war films before. The inexperienced character thrown into the hardships of war is nothing innovative.
“Sand Castle” might have turned out to be more intriguing had the film focused on Henry Cavill’s character. Cavill is no stranger to action films, having played both the iconic character of Superman and an American spy. The actor is experienced and knows what it takes to be a lead in a film. His character is somewhat interesting, with Cavill giving a rough and ragged Southern accent and sporting a shaved head.
We are instead left with Hoult, who is timid and unsure of himself. While his character may be relatable to audiences, he is not compelling. The film is largely lacking a distinct flair. And it’s a shame, as the film’s story had some potential to be curious, a group of soldiers trying to fix a water station is something not many war films focus on.
“Sand Castle” just largely ends up feeling generic. Hoult, Cavill and the rest of the cast are fine – nobody in the film does a bad job. But the film feels like a puzzle unfinished. The pieces aren’t connected to display a fully realized image.
Director Fernando Coimbra also does not help lift the film to higher standards. Whatever he brought to his two episodes of “Narcos” is lacking in this film. Here, Coimbra gets lost in a dusty wind of gravel, smokescreen and occasional warfare. It’s drab and frankly boring to look at.
Overall, “Sand Castle” may do well with dedicated viewers on Netflix, but the film lacks the magic that past Netflix films like 2015’s “Beasts of No Nation” had. If Netflix wants to truly succeed with future original films… they’ll need to put in a whole lot more effort than this. “Sand Castle” simply fails to meet the mark.