Man on Ground
The blurb suggests that this film could be an interesting thriller that holds strong on characters and relationships as well as delivering some powerful messages, the location isn't one that we see in film very often, and more interestingly the leads aren't those that we often see at the fore of a film. All in all Man on Ground was one that was calling for attention.
One of the first things I noticed about Man on Ground was that some of the visual style was strong and that there was an interesting way the film was cutting between the story of Ade tracking down his brother and his brother's past story coming to the point that would bring the two strands of the story together.
However there are quite a few issues I felt with the film, a lot of which could be solved with a stronger edit. I found a lot of the scenes went on a little too long, the camera always seem to linger too long on a scene and the reactions of the actors seem to be played out longer than feels natural. A stronger edit would certainly snap the story together and make it flow much more naturally than it did.
Another aspect is the storytelling; it could do with more of it. I felt at times I was being left alone to try and work out the gaps in the story and between the scenes far too much. I do like a film that makes you think and put together pieces yourself but there were moments where I was almost lost such as the events that some shots refer to back in Nigeria; the instigating incident in the brothers relationship; the references to places and situations in South Africa, and in particular the politics and the bigotries around the events.
To be fair at the end of the film there is a sequence that delivers the extent of the problems that immigrants are facing, but I'd like to have seen more of that through the storytelling, more sense of the reality throughout, as I didn't really feel the impact of that story until those closing scenes, mind you that is a powerful moment and well placed to reflect about the overall problem facing immigrants and not just Femi's shocking story.
Back to the story itself and I would have liked to have had more of the relationships between the leads to emotionally connect with them more. I did feel as though I was watching the story rather than getting involved, and for such a story you need to actually be involved to feel the impact of the reality of the situation at the end of the film.
The issues I felt with the storytelling and the editing both have an impact on the thriller aspect of the film, reading the blurb I could see the potential for a strong thriller that could even deliver a slightly film noir aspect to it, however that didn't come through. Partly I think that's down to the loss of urgency and tension being built in the film, it's there but it needed more and I think more connection with the characters and their story as well as the closer editing could have brought that through.
Oh, and there's one more thing I didn't quite get and that was the stylistic choice to show the characters in a scene not speaking to each other and instead hearing their voices as though we're listening to their inner voices. There's one scene though where we see these inner voices almost having a conversation together, it's strange and doesn't quite work for me.
For the most part though the locations, lighting and style do come through, and perhaps a few times overpower the story.
There is a lot of style to Man on Ground, which perhaps overpowers the stilted and lightly edited storytelling. A better cut with some more concentration on the storytelling could deliver a much stronger thriller and a stronger character based film.
It does feel rather fractured and at times I felt as though we were grasping moments from a story, but it is a good story, an engaging one that come the reveal of events through the flashbacks do deliver a rather shocking moment that again carries a strong visual impact. The final scene and the closing reveal of the reality of the story deliver the bigger message to the viewer, and it is one that does manage to grab you.
I do think that with a better edit the film could be stronger, but Man on Ground does have a story to tell and a message to bring to the viewer.