War is hell, and because of that most people in the world are against it. Most films that depict war try to avoid glamorizing it. And over the years many have won Academy Awards for telling the stories of the men and women caught in the middle of it. Foxhole aspires to be one of those films. It shows soldiers from three different eras having to grapple with difficult decisions that threaten to strip away their humanity. Unfortunately the stories they tell have been told before, in much better ways, in much better films.
The first part of the film takes place during the American Civil War, where a Black soldier is injured at the hands of the enemy. He manages to make his way to a foxhole that fellow soldiers dig. They debate whether they should dutifully follow orders that their superiors give them. Or if they should take him to the nearest hospital which is several miles away. Director Jack Fessenden shoots the second story in black and white. And it tells the story of World War One soldiers fighting from a trench when they take an injured German soldier as a prisoner of war.
Their debate in this instance is whether or not they should kill the young German, or show him mercy. Jumping forward once again, the third story in Foxhole takes place during the war in Iraq. And it sees enemy troops surrounding the soldiers surrounded after their enemy cripples their vehicle. In this case the story focuses on gender in the military and whether women should fight or not. It’s the first story to feature a female in the group.
Foxhole has its moments where you find yourself interested in the story, and the philosophical debates that plague the characters. Unfortunately however, the film doesn’t offer anything new that other movies haven’t said time and time again. This hinders its ability to draw you in. The actors in the film do their job well. Most of the cast play multiple characters throughout the different eras. But what bogs them down is a script that doesn’t really go anywhere and presents cardboard caricatures instead of real people.
Really what it comes down to is the director is trying too hard to emulate a film like Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line, instead of focusing on going its own way. He clearly wanted to make an artistic film that highlights the themes of duty, honour, empathy, mortality and futility in a poetic way. But instead of letting it come out naturally, it feels forced, which makes it boring and unappealing.