With a Title as simple as Dog, does the film live up to it?
I know a bunch of people have dug into this film’s title a lot. It does have a bluntness to it. Dog. It made me re-think all of my own writing titles to make sure they don’t seem too… well… bland.
But enough of that. How is the film?! This is Channing Tatum and Reid Carolin’s Directorial debut
So ‘Dog’ has a very simple premise. It’s about two dogs traumatized and dealing with the aftermath of war. Whether that’s PTSD or other physical ailments. One of the Dogs is Lulu a furry monster hellbent to ruin the mission that is to visit his fallen partner at his funeral, and the other Dog, Briggs, (Channing Tatum) is a recently medically decommissioned Army Ranger hellbent on getting back in the fight and proving that he is capable of still being a Ranger and his mission is to transport Lulu safely to said funeral.
The general plot and storyline of this film is quite simple and by the numbers. It does show hints at the depth into the psychosis of veterans, both human and canine, but its very surface level stuff, it begins to dig into the subject matter deeper to the end of the film but still it is much lighter than a darker emotional one. Which, is to my dismay, as I think the horrors of war and battle is something worth diving into and having two animals to contrast and highlight against each other feels like a great and intriguing idea. They do toy with the comparison of them both, making the dog a metaphor for the beast within Brigg’s character. Even the intro of the film begins with the title text slowly fading while we hear what is seemingly a dog panting wildly, only to reveal Briggs on the floor unconscious. These moments that show their emotional and physical traumas are my favorite parts of this film but again, it doesn’t dig deep enough in my opinion.
What the film does do instead of that, is again at my dismay, get off into weird political correctness humor? The film does it quite a bit, it just detours into these weird comedic staged sequences where Briggs must confront and be annoyed by cultural things. And one scene where Briggs fakes being a blind veteran which completely contradicts his rage at a homeless man that is using stolen valor. Not that they are equal but just a weird thing to have both be essentially a form of manipulation of valor to achieve some sort of benefit.
It’s not that the PC stuff is offensive or anything it just wasn’t necessarily funny and more importantly it didn’t really add anything to the narrative or character or dynamics of the actual themes. I think there is a way to use the PC stuff to highlight and contrast a soldier’s mindset as that is a reality of divergence. Just me, having served in the Air Force for six years have seen the mindset that most military members have and if I had a dollar for every time an airmen talked about “the new air force” I’d be a billionaire. I just think that the writers and filmmakers here didn’t tackle it in the right approach. Again, it’s a little too light.
Now moving on from the narrative.
I find Channing Tatum charming. I know a lot of people either hate or love him but I’m fond of his charisma which is mostly due to his performances in 21 & 22 jump street two of my favorite comedies in a long time. I think his performance is good for the most part and during one scene amazing. That scene has him performing a distressing physical ailment.
And of course, Lulu the Dog of the film is wonderful. Adorable viscous all at the same time. I did enjoy that the film had no CGI dog stuff at least that I saw.
Now let’s get into the production of this thing!
I think Tatum & Carolin do a pretty good job directing the film, though again, I wish the tone was a tad darker and more realistic, it’s a decent debut none the less.
The standout production wise is of course the cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel, who has a stellar resume, with films including, Drive, The Usual Suspects, and the majority of all the Fox X-men films. The way he plays with shadows and light in this film is quite beautiful, even using colors to paint over Channing in one key moment is beautiful, and also ripping an exact look out of ‘The Usual Suspects’. The film has no right to look as good as it did. Consistently I was impressed with the shot designs and the way he filmed so many exteriors in broad daylight. He also perfectly captured the visual feeling of going on a road trip. This element alone in the film really bumps it up quite a bit for me.
The rest of the technical things were good across the board, Thomas Newman has a few good musical pieces, but his music is very minimal.
So, in Ending.
Dog = 5/10 – Average
Dog is a film as simple as its title. It’s a decent directorial debut from Channing Tatum & Reid Carolin. The story only scratches the surface of the emotional potential this narrative could have and becomes too distracted by PC humor to add up to anything definitive. Tatum’s charisma is here in varying degrees as well. But the true standout and reason to watch this film is the often-great Cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel
Check out Anthony’s other written reviews.