Streaming Releases: False Flag (2019) - Reviewed

False Flag tells the story of two estranged brothers living in a small Midwest town who attempt to make amends amidst the outbreak of a government takeover.  Rather than telling the story in a standard format, the film utilizes the "Found Footage" technique mostly known in the horror genre with such films as The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity.  If I had to find a film that this one mostly tries to emulate in structure, it would have to be 2008's Cloverfield, in that it inter-splices the present chaos with that of a previous time with the brothers bonding prior to their rift that set them apart.  

It appears that False Flag is making an attempt at some sort of commentary about the role of government and propaganda in modern society.  There's even some footage of an Alex Jones or Rush Limbaugh type talk show host, who appears to be using any national tragedy for his own gain to boost ratings, etc.  I have to give credit to writer/director Aaron Garrett for his ambition in attempting to craft a film with some relevant social commentary; unfortunately I can't help but point out his shortcomings in these attempts.  

The most obvious failure in False Flag is well, its obviousness.  Absent from this film is any sense of subtlety.  The film's tagline itself: "Guns fight enemies.  Cameras fight tyrannies" is so overt it makes you grimace just thinking about it.  The dialogue isn't any better, with the film's protagonists spouting off cheesy over the top declarations that make you wonder if False Flag was written by a high school student who only just learned about government oppression.  

As I said before, this is presented as a "Found Footage" film, utilizing cameras that are only being wielded by the characters within the narrative.  One of the characters is an aspiring YouTube filmmaker, so he always has a camera on him, documenting his daily endeavors.  Over the course of the film, other characters acquire cameras, mostly from our aspiring filmmaker, which conveniently gives the narrative numerous views to cut between.  There was a point early on where I had to question whether the film had just blatantly abandoned its format in favor of more traditional cinematography, only to realize that the film was indeed just constantly cutting between the various characters cameras, which tells that while they were technically sticking to the format, it still felt like they were cheating in a way as well.  The constant editing between the characters feels like it takes away from the gimmick the filmmakers were initially trying to draw your attention to.  With this much editing, it doesn't really look like "Found Footage", does it?

The confused film format and oversimplified script are joined by a generally cheap sense of production design as well as so-so acting.  In the end, False Flag comes off as another poor attempt at being edgy and cool.  I understand that this is a truly independent film that was put together on a shoestring budget, however, if that's the case, then it's probably better to use that low budget to your advantage and embrace how that can give your film a homemade down to earth quality rather than reaching beyond your grasp.  At best, I can only hope that this film served as a learning experience for its filmmakers grow from before embarking on their next cinematic undertaking.

--Derek Miranda