The Objective Poster

The Objective (2008) Review

The Objective was directed by Daniel Myrick (Skyman, Believers), written by Myrick, Wesley Clark (Mad As Hell, 2525), and Mark A. Patton (The Strand), and stars Jonas Ball (Radio Mary, The Killing of John Lennon), Matthew R. Anderson (Navy SEALs v Demons, Hijack), Jon Huertas (Imprisoned, Castle), Kenny Taylor (Smoke Filled Lungs, The Return of the Muskrats), Chems-Eddine Zinoune (Journey to Mecca, Oud al Ward), Sam Hunter (Over There, The Abattoir), Jeff Prewett (Executor, Cross), and Michael C. Williams (Satanic Hispanics, Montclair). It follows a group of American military operators as they search for a potential superweapon in Afghanistan under the guise of a humanitarian operation, only to find another hostile presence in the desert.

The Plot: Returning to the metaphorical well that made one famous isn’t necessarily a bad thing, assuming the result isn’t too similar to what came before. Myrick, joined by Clark and Patton, makes just enough cursory changes with The Objective to pass muster.

Not long after 9/11, America re-enters the Middle East in retaliation, with military and intelligence operators littering countries like Afghanistan, where CIA agent Keynes (Ball) has been selected to lead special forces soldiers Hamer (Anderson), Degetau (Huertas), Cole (Hunter), Sadler (Prewett), Tanner (Taylor), and Trinoski (Williams) into unknown territory to find a native cleric, who may be useful in swaying Afghan opinions. As a setup, this is nothing that hasn’t been seen before within different settings and pretenses. With the mission clear, the team adds local guide Abdul (Zinoune) to their unit and sets onward from town to town in order to find their source and change hearts and minds.

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As is typical for movies where intelligence is the driving force, the true motive of the mission in The Objective isn’t handed out to anyone but Keynes. Sometimes the less is more approach works, but Myrick isn’t confident with this, peppering narration to give backstory instead of doing it organically and tritely (but realistically) refuses to thicken the plot – until Trinoski dies, anyway – beyond the fact that the CIA wants to know about an uptick in electrical surges that may point to a makeshift superweapon.

It’s workable enough, but with the inclusion of teammates who are said to know about local legends and beliefs, there’s no reason why the movie should end with such little clarity.

The Characters: Similar to the film that put the director/co-writer on the map, The Objective suffers from a distinct lack of memorable or even likeable characters. Only this time, there’s more of them to keep track of.

Keynes is your typical stoic keeper of secrets, having been hardened by past experiences in the middle east during the Gulf War, his personality has all but evaporated in the arid desert, which helps keep the locals from penetrating his true purpose, but not the audience in caring about him. His narration and some allusions make clear that he has a wife back home, but the writers barely bother to make him anything more than a filing cabinet of orders and equipment.

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Army personnel in The Objective are as generic as they come. Though all of the cast entrusted with the roles (except for Williams) have past military experience which lends credibility to the way they bark orders, there’s nothing for them to play. Hamer is the most visible among them, openly contesting the spook’s orders, questioning the end goal, and getting riled up when his men are deemed expendable. Anderson gives the movie’s best performance, but it’s still hard to differentiate these interchangeable military cutouts.

Abdul doesn’t get to do much except warn the Americans about the potential presence of Taliban or spectral forces and get scared when they don’t adhere to his word. He receives some attempts at humanization, such as his father’s kidnapping and his viewing of a few 007 films, but it doesn’t stick; no one sticks here. No heart and no mind were paid.

The Thrills: Essentially reusing the formula of the plot isn’t enough here, as the filmmakers replay the hits of the now perennial subgenre. Granted, there are effective uses of folklore as antagonistic forces and a few memorable sequences, but they’re small blips on the map.

Familiar scenes showcasing the uncertainty of and towards the Afghan population are commonplace in the first 20 minutes, and all of them are rote at best. Village people speak in whispered tones around the Americans, the elder only reluctantly gives vital information, and the women – most notably Abdul’s mother – break down at the sight of Americans. Conversely, the foreigners don’t trust the Afghans and want to move in and out as soon as possible, trying to appease them with chocolate to temper any anger.

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Repetition isn’t much help either. When the characters make their way from the villages into the mountains, their equipment doesn’t do anything to assist them. Reasonable doubt is provided since they’re in the middle of nowhere, but they soon begin meandering without a clue as to where they’re really heading. For a while this adds to the atmosphere, asserting the feeling that any wasted time is only hurting their odds of survival, assuming attackers aren’t already doing that. However, wasted time is a problem here, as the movie continues going in circles well past the necessary mark. Sure, we understand the characters’ frustration, but now it extends to the audience.

Eeriness is the biggest asset that The Objective has. Since Keynes always has a thermal camera on hand, there’s a looming question about what its purpose is. As the dwindling group gets closer to their goal (their objective, if you will) more and more oddities occur, such as the bodies of Taliban that they’ve killed going missing, a cache of totems portending supernatural beliefs, phantom visages that only appear in the thermal camera, and the deaths of some of the team via vaporization. Myrick, Patton, and Clark escalate the threat well, but it takes a bit of a slog to reach the reward.

The Technics: Having solely worked on movies made on shoestring budgets, Myrick’s work here translates to a film that punches above its weight in some departments, but still hasn’t learned all the ways to keep away from slumps in others.

Visually, there’s never a single shot where The Objective doesn’t convince. Whether on costume design and makeup effects or the Moroccan shooting location’s doubling for Afghanistan. Even when the film doesn’t have much to do, Stephanie Martin’s (Under the Bed, Wild Horses) cinematography maintains a picturesque hellishness that easily allows the audience to feel the heat and dehydration alongside the characters. Small cracks are present upon further inspection, such as a couple of noticeable reflections of the crew in characters’ sunglasses, but the atmosphere isn’t in doubt.

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Scripting and dialogue woes are what keep the movie from reaching its potential. Apart from the flimsy characters, some of the dialogue consists entirely of jargon ripped wholesale out of the military movie canon. A quicker pace would’ve made the handful of awful lines palatable, but even at a mere 87 minutes without credits, there are still sections that drag on past the established point.

An arresting second half is the reward for those who sit through The Objective’s rote plot and lifeless characters. It’s a visually stimulating ride, but far from the potentially exponential improvement on the formula that the director assisted in creating a decade prior.

The Objective is available on DVD as well as Digital Platforms including Tubi. and if that didn’t quite meet your entertainment objectives, FilmTagger can recommend some other films.

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