Directed by: Brian L. Tan
Written by: Christina Burlison
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War is hell but for this soldier, surrender is much, much worse. Especially for Matsuo (Toshi Toda) who has been battling for around three decades, long after the war ended. He not only believes himself the most loyal of soldiers, but simply can't grasp that the fighting has been done for so very long. Or maybe he just refuses to believe that Japan surrendered, something that would never happen. IT all must be a trick, those who are looking for him much be spies of some sort. It doesn't matter that they say they are police, it simply can not be true.
This is the territory Holdout occupies, and it isn't quite as outlandish as it seems. A holdout is a person who continues to fight after a war is finished, and now, in 2020 the idea of a Japanese holdout is pretty much impossible. But go back in time a few decades, and holdouts not only existed, but were far more common than you would imagine. Maybe not a 30 year holdout, but there have been cases from what I understand. This title throws a young hiker into Matsuo's world. A young man who finds himself trapped on a land mine. Sean (Mick Tolbert) is both American and Japanese, and as a hostile Matsuo confronts him, Sean begs for help off the land mine. Using his limited language skills, Sean attempts to convince the aging soldier that the way ended decades ago. That he's been fighting a dead cause, and that he should come in - a hero. As Matsuo contemplates all this new information, including a book and photographs, the two are interrupted by officers looking for the dangerous holdout in the woods. This snaps Matsuo back into soldier mode leaving Sean helpless. I won't reveal what comes next but the short and sweet of my review is this: Holdout is a definite must see drama. For a micro budget indie film, it's really quite amazing.
The real story in this title isn't so much the tale on the surface, but rather what's just under the hood. PTSD, loyalty, and downright mental illness all play factors here. When I say mental illness I really mean mental deterioration over time. Holdout focuses on Matsuo's mental states, and even when he entertains the idea that the war is over, the gears are still spinning, those inner voices yelling it's all a lie. This title even explores the notion that acceptance doesn't always mean compliance. Because as more or less said in the film, there comes a time when you can't go back. This is a thinking man's war story.
I wasn't a big fan of the ending offered, simply because this is a very tragic title. In more than one way. Yet, I can't argue the realities of the ending and just because I didn't like it, doesn't mean it wasn't a good ending. Beautifully crafted, everyone's happy kind of endings don't really happen all that often in real life and Holdout, is a very grounded film. For containing some very excellent performances, excellent writing and yes reader, even some great visuals, Holdout comes highly recommended from me. Four stars.