Foxhole (2021) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): Three different wars

“Foxhole” is a modest war movie which presents three different wars and then clumsily tries to make some universal statements from them. Although I do not think it works as well as intended, there are several effective moments to be appreciated at least, and they are supported mostly well by its small cast members, who appear in all these three main parts of the film as playing different characters.

The first part is unfolded in one foggy battleground of the American Civil War in the 19th century. During the opening scene, the camera looks over lots of dead soldiers on a wide field, and then it suddenly focuses on one Confederate Army soldier who manages to survive but then comes to have an urgent matter of life and death due to an enemy soldier.

However, this part is not about these two soldiers but four other Union Army soldiers who happen to be digging their foxhole at a nearby spot. When they hear a gunshot from somewhere outside their spot, they certainly become nervous, and then there comes a wounded black soldier, who survived the aforementioned incident. Due to his critically injured status, he must be sent to a hospital as soon as possible, but that hospital is a bit far from their spot, and they must finish digging their foxhole before their enemies come.

Because the black soldier tells them that the enemies will come upon them after several hours, their dilemma becomes much more difficult than before. Yes, it is morally right to send the black soldier to the hospital right now, but that means two of them will be dispatched along with him, and the two remaining members will continue to dig their foxhole and then may defend their spot by themselves alone.

I wish the movie delves more into this moral dilemma before eventually moving onto the second part, but the screenplay by director/writer Jack Fessenden, who also handled the music and editing of the film, succinctly establishes the characters and their circumstance at least. The main characters are your average broad archetypes, but they slowly come to engage us as they conflict more over their increasingly urgent matter, and what eventually happens may touch you a bit even though it is not so surprising.

The second part, which is shot in black and white film, is unfolded in a battlefield of the World War I in the early 20th century. We meet five American soldiers doing a certain important mission across the no man’s land between their army and the German Army, and they must be very careful because they can be noticed and then shot by their enemies at any chance.

And then there comes one big trouble for them. While they are carrying out their mission, they come across a wandering young German soldier, and they quickly hold him in their custody, but this will jeopardize their mission because at least one of them should watch over this German soldier while others continue to carry out their mission. While some of them begin to consider killing him for their convenience and safety, others reject that option for humane reasons, and the following conflict becomes more serious as it later turns out that time is running out for them minute by minute.

Although the second part feels a bit contrived around its eventual finale, Fessenden and his crew members did a good job of generating a sense of urgency around the main characters in the film. Due to their limited production budget, this part often looks artificial, but the actors look convincing as ably conveying to us the growing conflict among their characters, and we come to care about what choice they are going to make in the end.

The third part is set in the Iraq War in the early 2000s, and it is mainly unfolded inside a Humvee military truck going somewhere. It is carrying five American soldiers, and things look mostly fine as they are casually talking with each other, but we come to brace ourselves nonetheless as our rather limited perspective often reminds us that they are virtually moving in the middle of nowhere.

Of course, these soldiers soon find themselves stuck at a remote spot due to an unfortunate incident, and, to make matters worse, they are also surrounded by enemy snipers hiding somewhere outside. They have no choice but to wait inside their truck, but, as time goes by, the chance for rescue is decreased to their frustration, and the seriously injured status of one of them also gets worse.

As their story reaches to its inevitable point, it is juxtaposed with the other two stories of the film, but, instead of making them resonating with each other, the movie only leaves a rather jarring impression as hammering its points on us again and again. Nevertheless, the main cast members try their best with their respective multiple roles, and the special mention goes to James LeGros, who gradually comes to function as the moral center of the film via his solid supporting performance.

Overall, “Foxhole” does not bring anything particularly new to its genre territories, and it does not succeed that well in handling its familiar main themes associated war and humanity, but it did not bore me at least thanks to the competent efforts from Fessenden and his good cast and crew members. Although this is only his second feature film, Fessenden demonstrates here that he is a filmmaker with some potential, and I can only hope that he will soon move onto better things to show us.

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