War veterans can unfortunately suffer from some pretty heavy stuff. War in general causes problems for almost everybody all the time. It's not a nice activity to par-take in. Soldiers go off to fight; some come back while others never return. It's a sad truth, but that's sometimes the normality of it all. When marines go off to battle, most return with some kind of post traumatic stress (PTS) that changes the way they behave. This ranges from person to person and the intensity can vary too. But for those who lose their loved ones at war, nobody enjoys receiving a box with their offspring's name plate in it. On the other hand it's even more of a shock to the system when that individual returns from combat. After long periods of waiting, family members can get worried. The relief of knowing and being able to see somebody again after an extended time is overwhelming. But what is it like when someone is realized to be living when originally confirmed dead? This causes a whole new scenario.
|Sam Waterston & Thomas Wilson Brown|
Kris Kristofferson is Jake Robbins, a Vietnam war vet who was supposedly killed on duty in 1970. When in reality, he was being taken care of by some natives. Seventeen years later he wakes up to discover he's back in the states and missing his family. He's then accompanied by Col. Barnes (Trey Wilson) who informs him that he cannot return back to Vietnam to see his kids for word getting out that there might be some survivors left behind. Frustrated with the options he's given, he returns home to get some closure with his dad (Brian Keith). He also visits his now moved-on wife Sarah (JoBeth Williams), his son Tyler (Thomas Wilson Brown) and step-father Woody (Sam Waterston). With a screenplay by Maggie Kleinman, who would only write for one more movie being Desperate Choices: To Save My Child (1992), the script is all right for a basic story. It does have some unanswered questions and plot threads, but overall it's solid for a premise. This makes it watchable, but on a predictable level.
What doesn't make sense in Kleinman's script are some unresolved plot components. The most noticeable lack of clarity is when it comes to Jake's return. Who picked up Jake from Vietnam? Did he make it back himself? The scene before he woke up in the states was being taken to a hospital in Thailand. Where was the transition? Another problem arises with some character's unresolved actions. An act or two are committed that seem like a reconciliation would be in good order. However that never happens either and it's kind of a big deal. One should not be able to walk away feeling fine with themselves. Aside from these two concerns, the final point to be made is that the structure of the story is very predictable. From start to finish the long-term experience doesn't bring up many new twists or surprises along the way. The plot is quite linear in a very practical sense. There isn't much to it other than how certain characters cope with Jake's return. And the end result is none too shocking.
Yet that doesn't mean watching this movie is boring. All members involved that were listed act the way one would expect. The characters are very relatable in the situations they encounter as well as their reactions. Watching Kristofferson play Jake and seeing him make mistakes along the way is the right kind of development. For anyone who's been claimed as long gone and returns, the feeling is confusing. You want to return, but it's hard to say whether that might open up old wounds or not. Topics like these are mixed bags when it comes to feelings and it's a risky gamble. Sarah, Woody and Tyler's revelations when they find out of who Jake is just as sympathetic. One of the best scenes though was when Jake's father finally sees him again. It's a gratifying experience. The human drama and emotions are clear. Brian Keith also gives some great insight to Jake after he contemplates how he's a deserter. That's blown right out of the water after his dad talks.
|"Welcome home,...old boy..."|
Directing this feature for the final time was Franklin J. Schaffner. With what has been presented on screen as much as the script struggled to clear up some things, Schaffner's direction was mighty helpful. Without him, the story would not have been as engaging. Schaffner had also directed The Boys from Brazil (1978), Patton (1970) and Planet of the Apes (1968). For visuals, Fred J. Koenekamp handled the camera. Since this was a film with a much smaller budget, whatever was captured was the greater part real. There aren't too many distinct shots but the scenery captured is pretty. Much of the background contains suburban town roads, to back country lake houses. Koenekamp also worked on The Hunter (1980) and The Swarm (1978). Lastly, famous composer Henry Mancini produced the film score. Another great aspect to this feature was that Mancini created a reoccurring main theme. Even Kristofferson's good buddy Willie Nelson made a song for the film. This is memorable, it's just sad that the soundtrack wasn't released.
Points Earned --> 6:10