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    Dawn Patrol (2015): Movie Review

    "Heavy and cluttered."

    Scott Eastwood stars as a surfer-turned-Marine in a drama thriller by Daniel Petrie Jr. Combining themes about racism, violence, relationships and redemption, Dawn Patrol is the story of a close-knit family shaken by an unfortunate accident and the one man who holds the guilt until the end. 

    John (Eastwood) and his little brother Ben (Chris Brochu) are surf enthusiasts who are still living at home with their protective parents Trick (John Fahey) and Sheila (Rita Wilson). In Ventura County where there are still racial tensions between Latinos and white surfers, the brothers are constantly looking out at each other’s back. So it happens that Ben’s ex-girlfriend Donna (Kim Matula) is dating a Latino. But when Ben proposes to her while in the process of raping her at the same time, Donna quickly accepts and a chain of misfortune befalls on the family. 

    Ben is found dead on the beach. Donna, appearing to have not cared at all, turns on John and seduces him. Trick and Shiela are distraught and intent on avenging the death of their younger son. John, proving his worth as son and brother, murders the wrong man. He tries to run away from his guilt by enlisting as a Marine officer. But his conscience continues to haunt him and the only way to freedom is to confess the truth. And when he does so, a more terrifying ghost will haunt him forever. 

    Dawn Patrol is messy and staggering. It is multi-thematic, dealing with subjects on family, xenophobia, revenge, forgiveness, liberation, surfing and so much more. It tries to encompass a lot of things but fail to bring that solid, tight and coherent grip. Its opening is quite promising – we see John in army suits and broken arm being led to a desert, waiting for his possible execution. To stall time, he tells his story and the rest of the movie becomes a flashback, back to the events of summer 2008. It is tricky as that prologue truly captures and keeps our attention.

    However, the remainder of the film becomes a jumble of random events as the past, present and future of the past are not beautifully intertwined and sequenced. Though the story has clearly evolved, it has several elements that are unconvincing and unbelievable. For one, Donna’s character is exaggerated beyond logic – girlfriend to all, accepting proposal during mid-rape, fucking the brother of the person she kills and many more bitchiness. All hell broke loose because of what she did and John murders an innocent person. But when he tells his victim’s mother about the truth, the latter, instead of sending him to prison, opts to banish him away and kill him instead on a day that John is bliss and has reasons for living. As she puts it, “My revenge can wait forever.” This ghost follows John and even after he has a family of his own (end scene), the image of the mother shooting him taunts him. It just does not make sense that John and his loved ones are still living in Ventura County despite the scary threat.

    There are still some good moments in the movie, like the father and sons bonding and the sense of freedom projected in surfing. However, the movie has such poor dialogues that it takes effort to engage with the characters at each point. Eastwood as the lead role is not that helpful. He is mostly stiff and forced. His good looks may have been a disadvantage this time as he appears like a boy acting out a part. He shows promise though and maybe with constant practice, he can deliver a more appealing performance in his future films. Fahey and Wilson, however, are remarkable as parents who would do everything for their children. They provide that much needed drama and tension in the movie. 

    In general, Dawn Patrol feels like wanting to tell a complicated story, twisted by unrealistic characters, but ends up confusing it more. It is sad and depressing, and the flashback strategy, poor script and severe direction only worsen it.



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