The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
The film centers on a relationship forged throughout the adult lifetimes of two Marine colonels, Hays Hodges (Tommy Lee Jones) and Terry Childers (Samuel L. Jackson). They fought side by side in Vietnam, where Childers saved Hodges' life by shooting an unarmed POW. That's against the rules of war but understandable, in this story anyway, under the specific circumstances. Certainly Hodges is not complaining.
Years pass. Hodges, whose wounds make him unfit for action, gets a law degree and becomes a Marine lawyer. He also gets a divorce and becomes a drunk. Childers, much-decorated, is a textbook Marine who is chosen to lead a rescue mission into Yemen when the U.S. embassy there comes under threat from angry demonstrators.
Exactly what happens at the embassy, and why, becomes the material of a court-martial after Childers is accused of ordering his men to fire on a crowd of perhaps unarmed civilians, killing 83 of them. He persuades his old friend Hodges to represent him in the courtroom drama that occupies the second half of the film. Although the story marches confidently toward a debate about the ethical conduct of war, it trips over a villain who sidetracks the moral focus of the trial.
Remarkable, though, how well Jones, Jackson and director William L. Friedkin are able to sustain interest and suspense even while saddled with an infuriating screenplay. Little is done to provide the characters with any lives outside their jobs, and yet I believed in them and cared about the outcome of the trial. If their work had been supported by a more thoughtful screenplay, this film might have really amounted to something.
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