Rotten Tomatoes (2.5/5), Letterboxd (2.5/5), Imdb.com (5/10), TMDB.com (2.5/5)
The once-controversial topic of gays in the military has settled down somewhat from its flashpoint status years ago (even if it’s not yet everything that members of the LGBTQ+ community would like it to be). But, in the not-too-distant past, it was still a hot button topic, one that made life difficult for those in the military, especially for those in relationships who served together, despite guaranteed provisions against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Those are among the challenges addressed in writer-director David Wagner’s third feature outing, a fact-based tale about a closeted (and married) tough-as-nails Austrian military drill sergeant (Gerhard Liebmann) who clandestinely falls for an out-and-proud recruit (Luka Dimić). While the story and sentiments are truly touching, the overall execution, unfortunately, leaves much to be desired. Perhaps the biggest problem here is the screenplay, which is loaded with developments that unfold at an unrealistically fast pace, creating awkward transitions and, consequently, diminishing the picture’s credibility. The effect of that is pacing that comes across as needlessly rushed, something that could have been resolved by simply taking a little more time to allow the narrative to develop, especially given the film’s comparatively short 1:27:00 runtime. The character development feels exaggerated at times, too, with the sergeant vacillating wildly between over-the-top beast and tender loving partner and with the recruit appearing as a little too defiant and flamboyant to be convincing. And then there’s the cinematography, which at times is so dark that it’s virtually impossible for viewers to discern what’s going on, particularly in an initial intimate sequence that’s about as murky as the ocean floor. It’s regrettable that this offering gets so much wrong, because it’s a heartfelt story that deserves a more effective telling. There’s a lot to be said for sharing a touching tale such as this, but the least its creators can do is tell it with earnest believability, something that’s largely absent here.