State (Remix) (2021) Review
Two soldiers reckon with intergenerational war wounds in writer-director Alain Nouvel’s patchy debut.
Clocking in at 63 minutes, State (Remix), a re-edit of the original State, is a lean and lonely film. The first line of dialogue is properly spoken roughly 15 minutes in. That first quarter-hour is brilliantly intriguing, as it cross-cuts between a young, nameless soldier (Patrick Cragin) returning home and a retired marine (Myles Macvane), full of grief and guilt, struggling to go on.
The sound design is the film’s greatest strength. There is a low rumble under every dreary scene, occasionally interspersed with effectively ominous Cold War radio broadcasts. As the soldier reunites with his lover (Courtney Sturm), their conversation through a glass door is drowned out by pop music and they passionately kiss to the violent sound of remembered, inescapable gunfire.
Frustratingly, once the characters start talking, things start to come unstuck. The surprisingly lazy dialogue, comprised mostly of genuinely gratuitous swearing and hollow angst, only works to undo the carefully crafted, noirish feel of the opening. I am not someone to take umbrage with a coarse script, but it simply does not work as a substitute for quality dialogue - nor is it dark and dangerous.
Characters otherwise talk in empty platitudes about life and war. Macvane has a deep, gravelly voice, so it’s at least bearable as he runs through his Apocalypse Now-inspired monologues.
Nouvel’s direction is confident and for the most part effective
But despite the flimsy writing, the central mystery as to what could link the two (and what the young soldier is hiding in his backpack) remains intriguing throughout, aided certainly by its slim runtime and quick pacing.
Nouvel’s direction is confident and for the most part quite effective, barring a woeful flashback sequence framed in first-person, as a CGI rifle awkwardly floats around on screen. The intentions are clear, but what should be harrowing ends up looking like a cheap video game.
While it never reaches the truly enthralling heights of the opening, Nouvel at leasts sticks the landing, presenting a nebulous conclusion born of real world fears and conspiracies. It’s subtle, and ultimately enough for you to leave satisfied if a little underwhelmed.