The core conflict in Allegiance involves a member of the Army National Guard going AWOL on the eve of his unit's deployment to Iraq. Another lieutenant, recently transferred to a non-deploying unit thanks to his daddy's connections, weighs helping his friend or upholding his duty to the guard. Allegiance has an uphill climb with its unlikeable characters and dishonorable behavior, but makes efforts to portray the raw emotions surrounding a military deployment. Things are a little too black and white during much of the film, and guard leaders are painted as unthinking military drones instead of real people. The core conflict also rides on shaky ground, but Allegiance is convincing enough in the trenches to warrant a rental.
Director Michael Connors, an Army officer before he directed Allegiance, brings authenticity to the pre-deployment run-up at New York's Camp Sullivan. The film is set in 2004, when the Bush administration called Army National Guard units to deploy to Iraq for eighteen months. Many guardsmen found themselves facing uncertain futures when the Army called its weekend warriors into battle. Everyone on base is preparing to deploy except Lt. Danny Sefton (Seth Gabel), a Wall Street banker with a powerful father. Sefton is a good leader and well liked, but his fellow soldiers are expectedly hurt when Sefton secures a last-minute transfer out of his unit. The Army calls in a young lieutenant with combat experience, Alec Chambers (Pablo Schreiber), to replace Sefton, who meets with much resistance as he tries to assist the departing soldiers. Specialist Chris Reyes (Bow Wow), a skilled medic, was approved to stay stateside until higher-ups make the last-minute decision that he is needed in Iraq. Reyes has a sick son, and begs Sefton to help him desert.
Allegiance takes place during the 24 hours before deployment, when the base is completely locked down to deter any last minute ship-jumpers. Allegiance throws a curveball at the audience early on. Reyes claims to have a terminally ill son, but the medical diagnoses conflict. One doctor sees acute asthma; another incurable cancer. By making the catalyst for going AWOL uncertain, Allegiance makes it tough to root for Reyes. It's the same with Sefton, whose late-game flight angers former friends. Sefton makes a good point when he asks his unit whether they would have done the same thing. These are complex problems without perfect solutions. Chambers appears to be an All-American soldier with a square jaw and impeccable morals, but admits to carrying a bunch of personal baggage that makes deployment more reprieve than inconvenience.
The core duties of allegiance and honor at play make Allegiance a film without a true protagonist or antagonist. The guard leadership is absolutely justified in wanting Reyes on the plane; the unit is short-staffed already and would be without a medic. The brass sticks to an Army deployment script, and threatens Sefton with a court martial should he assist Reyes in going AWOL. I would have liked to see these supporting characters given more depth, and Allegiance instead makes them unreasoning tough guys. This probably reflects, to an extent, the pre-deployment climate on base, and I don't fault Allegiance for what is likely a pretty accurate portrayal of Army conduct.
The best parts of Allegiance are its moral quandaries, and the film's third-act shift to a chase thriller is less impressive. Sefton, Reyes and Chambers begin a cat-and-mouse hunt on the locked-down base, and Allegiance ramps up the stylized fights and tensionless game of hide and go seek. The drama is more thoughtful than this generic action, and Allegiance loses some ground in these final minutes. The ending is also troublesome, and Sefton's shot at redemption feels forced. This is certainly not a perfect film, but Allegiance is fairly well acted and poses difficult questions about sacrifice and honor.
The 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is culled from a digital source, and is as sharp and clear as expected. Connors drains most of the color from the image, and Allegiance at times appears to be shot in black and white. Detail is generally good, and Connors preserves a natural, film-like appearance by shooting with soft focus. Black levels are good, and detail is retained in dimly lit scenes. There is some minor aliasing on buildings and in trees, but I noticed no compression artifacts.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack supports the dialogue-driven drama with excellent clarity and separation. The ambient sounds of the bustling base trickle into the surround speakers, and the few action elements meet with sharp LFE response and good surround separation. English SDH subtitles are available.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc set is packed in a Blu-ray eco-case and includes the Blu-ray and a DVD copy of the film. Extras include an informative Commentary by Director Michael Connors, Producer Sean Mullin and Actor Seth Gabel, a short production featurette, The Making of Allegiance (4:59/HD), and the film's trailer (2:09/HD).
This moderately compelling drama is set in 2004, as an Army National Guard unit prepares to deploy to Iraq. A lieutenant gets pushback over a last-minute transfer to another unit, and a young soldier weighs deserting to be with his sick son. Allegiance provides some interesting dilemmas for its characters, who struggle to become likeable, and Director Michael Connors lends an air of authenticity to the film. The drama is more compelling than the late-game shift to action, which is generic and distracting. Rent It.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.