I gave director Daniel Myrick a lot of credit on the last DVD release of his I covered—2007’s Believers. The one-time co-director of The Blair Witch Project turned away from that in-your-face verité docu-film vibe that his old partner Ed Sanchez (Seventh Moon) still seems to be clinging to. In Believers Myrick pushed a few buttons and really tried to dig into character psyche and motivation. The ending of that film wasn’t flashy and the methods of achieving enlightenment were measured. But, the payoff was totally worth it. In other words, the end justified the means.
In a lot of ways, that sentiment is easily applied to the plot of The Objective…the end justifies the means. Only this time, it defines character motivation inside the film and not the overall experience viewing it.
Benjamin Keynes (Jonas Ball) is a CIA operative sent into Afghanistan just a few short weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He’s been there before, ten years ago. This time he’s back searching for something. Something that is sending off a radio active signature. But what is he looking for? For his mission he enlists a group of tough soldiers who are reluctant to join the CIA on a wild goose chase through the barren terrain in search of something that the “on a need to know basis” GIs don’t “need to know”. It doesn’t take long before hostile attacks and in-fighting threaten to rip this band of brothers apart.
Like Believers, Myrick seems to be actively pushing to blend genres. Where that film mixed religion, sci-fi and drama together, The Objective is at once a war movie and a sci-fi film. But it’s more than aliens in the desert—which would be a far too easy explanation for what the filmmaker is trying to achieve. Myrick’s film is full of human drama. He’s extremely interested in breaking down characters reason and rational while pressing buttons to find out what makes them tick. The film is most successful when it focuses on Keynes and his relationship with Chief Warrant Officer Wally Hamer (played to absolute perfection by former Army Special Forces Sergeant Matthew R. Anderson). It’s a film about people in extreme situations and how they react to those situations that makes for compelling storytelling. The catalyst for those motivations might be this mysterious mission but the people are the story here.
In that regard The Objective excels. However, as a supernatural drama or a sci-fi horror film, it fails almost in every other manner. It’s not scary, it’s not bloody and first and foremost, it has no satisfying resolution. In fact, it’s in many ways very much a product of The Blair Witch Project. This film, like that one, is about the journey, not the destination. What made Believers work was that it remembered to be about both. With no clear (ahem) objective, the film falls apart, in much the same way that the unit at the center of the story collapses. Like them, we to are left wondering what the purpose of the mission was ultimately for.