WATCH THE TRAILER HERE
First, the Recap:
How can you bounce back from the trauma of war? Faced with decisions daily on the front lines that can literally mean the life or death of the friend, the brother-in-arms, the patriot next to you, is there ever a true solace found when the unexpected happens? It is 2007, and a new surge of military build-up is being pushed for to bolster U.S. forces in the Middle East conflict. Having first-hand experience in facing the terrorist threat while deployed, Sgt. Mason (Clayne Crawford) has more than earned his battle stripes in defending America’s freedom, even though some aspects of the actions taken while in country have been less than savory. However, when an IED attack leaves him devastatingly shaken, it spells a ticket back Stateside for him.
A hardened solider through and through, Mason desires to do nothing more than leave a “normal” life behind and return to the field, but other powers that be have a different plan given the sudden need for more support–make him a recruiter. With great reluctance, Mason is assigned to the recruiting office of Sgt. Harris (Lew Temple), a highly motivated officer whose drive and relentless determination to see the Army, his office, and those working there be just as doggedly adamant in going out into the community and soliciting for new blood seems unyielding. Yet, even as Mason, already continuing to struggle to make adjustments to post-action existence, attempts to find the same level of engagement in recruiting as Harris, it soon becomes painfully evident that a whole different kind of war is occurring right where they’re all at.
Next, my Mind:
Delivering a message that is relevant, timely, intentionally provocative yet undeniably evocative, writer/director/co-producer/co-cinematographer Oden Roberts’ indie feature effort delivers a slow burn narrative that bears a subdued, quiet intensity which boils under the surface while painting a decidedly sobering and darkly accurate portrait about the tactics and attitudes found within the business of recruiting in a post 9/11 world. Going beyond the already blatant pressures, and subsequent aftermaths, impacting soldiers on the desert battlefields of the Middle East, the story hurtles the viewer into a whole different realm of tension and stress in illustrating the challenges encountered by recruiters so abruptly being charged with finding and successfully signing new enlistees while still having to deal with their own sense of worth and relevancy. This in itself causes strain on every relationship and expectation they encounter along the way, but additionally seeing how heavily it weighs upon Mason and Harris when all being seen through their very different approaches/perspectives on duty, patriotism, and overall thinking as soldiers, is both unsettling and inspiring.
Crawford, an already prolific actor whose profile has grown highly over the last seven years in particular, absolutely excels here in his role as Sgt. Mason, a soldier who’s encountered the raw realities of the war on terror, enacting his own brand of justice at times, but fiercely loyal to his fellow warriors and America, focused on maintaining freedom, and staying where he fits in. However, when the circumstances drastically change and Mason finds himself back in the U.S. trying to re-adapt, the new test becomes a willingness to try and teach that same level of resolve and single-mindedness to young kids who’ve never even faced war head-on, even while harboring the desperate urge to return to it himself. Finding out how the recruiting is done and some of the methods utilized, while likewise having to see his own involvement ridiculed, the fight hits home in totally new ways, and Crawford so adeptly captures all of the emotional nuances with an understated resolve and delivery.
Temple likewise brings a fantastic level of fervent spirit and passion in his performance as Sgt. Harris, an unquestionably patriotic, strongly seasoned solider who’s belief in the Army, what it stands for, the opportunities it offers, and the impact it can and will keep having in the fight for freedom very much drive his demeanor and constant persistence in gathering new recruits. Yet, despite the motivational speeches he can execute with such ardent precision and the sometimes anger-filled rants he can create to desperately try and encourage the recruiters under him, there lies a sense of woundedness and disappointment within him that only rarely surfaces, but when it does, it’s evident and filled with the doubts of who he really is or what true purpose he still might hold when it appears so much around him is failing overall. The presence of a war-hardened veteran like Mason seems to both encourage him yet perhaps engender a notion of inadequacy, and Temple deftly portrays this ever-fluctuating manner with an acute poignancy.
Other solid supporting roles are provided here from JB Majors, Jim Hechim, Matthew Lipisko, Melissa O’Keefe and others. In total, “A Fighting Season” is a powerfully impacting indie drama that gives us an all-too-real glimpse into how much the results of war, both overseas and right here at home, can have lasting ramifications on everyone who becomes involved, for good or ill. May we still appreciate and never stop supporting all the men and women of our armed forces who fight for our freedoms every day. We salute you.
As always, this is all for your consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you for reading!