One of the common complaints tossed around regarding ‘modern cinema’ is the death of movies for adults. It’s not a complaint I have much interest in; these movies still exist – even if their budgets and audiences might have shrunk – and that’s not always a good thing.
Case in point: The Yellow Birds, an entirely okay war movie ‘for adults’. Twenty years ago, with enough studio promotion, it might have picked up a couple Oscar – or maybe Golden Globe – nominations. Perhaps for Alden Ehrenreich’s deserving work in the lead role, or – less deservingly – Jennifer Aniston’s histrionic performance as the tearful mother of Ehrenreich’s fellow marine, played by Tye Sheridan (demonstrating that he’s still got that spark sadly missing in films like X-Men and Ready Player One).
But we don’t really need more movies like The Yellow Birds. It’s an effective showcase for Ehrenreich, but it offers little in terms of nuanced politics – with time and sympathy only for murdered marines, not innocent Iraqis – with a fragmented screenplay disrupting any sense of place or character (the unconvincing sets, presumably a collateral of a tight budget, don’t help). The film’s not so much bad as bland: an unforgiveable sin in today’s crowded marketplace.