I Die Alone (2013) – By Duane L. Martin

Private Finch (Carl Schrieber) isn’t really a killer, and yet he’s stuck in the middle of the Korean War having to fight for his life every day. When they capture an enemy prisoner, he’s brought back to the bunker for questioning, which his lieutenant, Lr. Burton (Jeremy Koerner), isn’t at all happy about. When they head out the next day, he orders Finch to take the prisoner out off the road where he’s to kill him. Unfortunately, Finch, not having that killer instinct, hesitated just a moment too long when the time came, and the prisoner got free, wrestled his weapon away from him and took him hostage. He then cracked Finch on the head with the butt of the rifle, knocking him out, and shot his lieutenant dead before the rest of his squad gunned him down.

Later, Finch wakes up alone, and questions why he’s still alive. He starts walking, trying to reach help and safety, and eventually meets up with a mailman named Perry who had a breakdown while on his way to deliver some mail, and is also trying to walk to safety. While Finch initially appreciates having a traveling companion, there’s something off about this fellow, and as the two travel together, his traveling companion, and his relationship with him take a darker turn, as the two try to find some friendly forces to help them. They have to fight their way through enemy forces, work their way through land mines, and discover a lot more about themselves and each other before it’s all said and done.

I don’t want to go too much more into the story, because I don’t want to give anything away. It’s better to watch it and see how the characters and their relationship develops than for me to sit here spelling it out, but that’s the long and the short of what the film is about.

Now, I have a bit of a special connection to the Korean War, as my father fought in that war. People call it the forgotten war, because it doesn’t get the attention that Vietnam does, or the two World Wars, the Civil War, etc…. My father gave up a chunk of his life fighting that war, so for me its gratifying to see movies that focus on that time and that place.

As for the movie itself, it’s really a textbook example of how to do a lot with a little, and make it seem like there’s a whole lot more than there is. For example, the film starts out in the middle of a battle. Finch’s squad is under attack. People are getting shot, legs blown off, etc…. In reality, I’d be surprised if there were fifteen people involved in the whole thing. I’m not sure how many there were, but there weren’t all that many, and yet with the great use of sound effects, excellent acting, tight editing and just the right camera shots, it made it all feel like it was a whole lot bigger than it really was. I’ve seen films fail absolutely miserably at scenes like this. The battle here in this film is something that other film makers could seriously learn from.

There’s a vagueness to this film. Now what do I mean by that? Well, it’s by design, and it’s a method for leaving the viewer wondering what’s really happening. Is it hard to guess what’s really going on after that incident with the prisoner? Not really, but since it’s never explicity made clear until the end, it does leave you wondering, and that’s a good thing.

As for the acting in the film, it was a bit of a mixed bag. Some were better than others, but no one was less than good. Jeremy Koerner was only in the film for a short time as Lieutenant Burton, but when he was on the screen, it was just magical. He has a talent that belongs in Hollywood, and I truly hope to see him there someday. He’s so good, there’s even a scene where he’s in Finch’s face bitching him out with such intensity that the actor’s (Carl Schrieber’s) eyes actually dilated from the stress.

One other thing I’ll mention just because it was silly. You know that thing about how what has been seen cannot be unseen? Well, as I was watching the film, I noticed that the actor playing the colonel, Peter Stylianos, looked an awful lot like Harpo Marx, minus the big, messy hair. That’s all I could think about from that point on every time he was on the screen. There’s no reason to mention it really, but since it took up so much of my mental energy as I was watching the film, I figured I’d throw it out there.

I think the only thing I can really ding this film on is that it’s too long. I would guess that twenty or so minutes could have been left on the cutting room floor and tightened the story up nicely. As it stands, it’s 103 minutes long and there are a few scenes that feel like either filler, or like they’re longer than they needed to be. This is a fairly minor complaint though.

I was really impressed with this film. This is another film from writer and director Michael Fredianelli. I had reviewed another film of his called Black Cat Whiskey in the June 2013 issue here on Rogue Cinema. He had sent me this film along with that one when he sent them to me, and I’m glad he did. If you get a chance to see it, make sure you do. It truly is a great study on how to make a little seem like a lot, and how to make the most of what you have.