Day 39: Jesse Gustafson – Indie Film Review

Day 39



We're huge fans of war movies here at Film Fervor and this one, stacked up against some of our favorites, really shines through. This is an awesome short that deserves much praise.

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Today’s film is the 2015 short Military drama Day 39 written and directed by Jesse Gustafson. It stars Pooya Mohseni, Anna Myrha, Nathan Brimmer, Arash Mokhtar, John Brodsky, Dion Mucciacito and Bianca Nejat. It is currently being featured on the 2017 Winter Film Festival by Fandependent films and is in the running for the Fan Choice Award.

Day 39 focuses on the experiences of the youngest and most inexperienced member of a foot patrol squad known only as The Kid (John Brodsky)as he serves his time in Afghanistan. On one of his first patrols his squad is ambushed but they easily defeat the attackers despite The Kid not fireing his weapon once but his troubles only have just begun as he is requested by his Sargent to go into a mud hut to assist Doc (Dion Mucciacito) a seasoned combat medic who has been asked by a local woman to assist her granddaughter in delivering a baby. The young man must learn to put aside his uneasiness with dealing with the Afghans to help bring this innocent child in to the world while outside the threat of counter attack constantly hangs over their heads. Things take a turn for the worse when a complication in the delivery arises and stretches the skills of Doc and the vastly inexperienced Kid to the breaking point.

I have loved war movies ever since I was a small child, the prestige, the duty and honor of these brave men and women has always filled me with both wonder and awe at their bravery and skill so when I saw that Day 39 was going to be a war film I was cautiously optimistic. The only problem is that these days people seem to disrespect the military and paint them in a very bad light so I took my excitement with a grain of salt and really hoped they did it right with this film and to my great surprise they did. Day 39 is not a typical war film in that it only has one instance of combat in it’s entirety and that takes a major back seat to the real plot of the film, humans coming together to overcome adversity and show that deep down beyond the politics we are the same. To us in the Western world delivering a baby is a simple procedure for the most part that can seriously tax the mother but when you take away the comforts of a modern operating room it becomes a true life or death struggle. It is here when the Kid faces his real challenge and morality crisis as he has been trained to see the people he is now trying to save as a threat. In many films of this type they shove this moral dilemma down the viewer’s throat in a very hamfisted way that comes off as really disingenuous but comes off as real and thought provoking here. This is attributed to the skill and talent of writer/director Jesse Gustafson and his very talented cast.

The acting in this film is perhaps some of the best I have seen in a war movie since Saving Private Ryan. While the cast is no where near then fame level of that block buster movie they have all been around the movie scene for many years and it shows completely here. Normally I would single out the actor or actors who gave the best performance and write about their accomplishments in the film but I feel that would be a major disservice to every member of this wonderful cast. Each one delivered a heart felt and completely genuine performance that is not only uncommon in independent films but getting more rare in mainstream cinema as well. Never once do you get the feeling that they are just dialing in their performance and each one is as complex as any main character from larger budget films, even the secondary characters play their parts with conviction and believably that you are completely immersed in the film and can put yourself in any of their shoes.

The production value of Day 39 is simply outstanding. The cinematography of the film is executed flawlessly by the production team. The picture quality is clear and lightened perfectly despite being filmed in a desert area which is notoriously easy to have your scenes overblown and whited out to the point where you can’t see but here is handled with a professional touch. The camera work is steady and fixed and has no artifacts or shaky cam effects that would otherwise ruin this beautiful work. Each scene is shot carefully to show exactly what the viewer needs to be feeling at any given time, from closeups of The Kid’s sweating face to the sweeping wide shots of the platoon out on the ridge facing the blinding heat. You can really feel each emotion and sensation the characters are experiencing due to the skillful storytelling and compelling camera work.

The audio work of the film is equally as excellent as the video work and really shows what determination and professionalism can bring. The characters are all heard perfectly even over the sounds of gunfire and screaming and never once dip down to the inaudible levels no matter where they are in relation to the camera, a common failing in independent films. The weapons fire is not over powering and sound quite similar to the actual weapons being caught by a recording device which is very rare for any film but especially war films who normally over amp their guns for dramatic effect. This is another film that doesn’t really bother with a musical track and really adds a sense of realism to the film as you can hear each scream of the delivering mother and the heavy panting of Doc and The Kid as they try to save both. At first I wasn’t a fan of this type of audio work but the lack of soundtrack really has started to grow on me for dramatic effect and I might just have to change my opinion on this style of film.

When all is said and down Day 39 is a deeply emotional film that not only shows the military in a better light than most films manage but also delivers a compelling and wonderfully written story. From the near flawless cinematography to the excellent acting at just over fourteen minutes you simply can’t go wrong with this film and I heartily recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good drama piece that doesn’t try to overwhelm the viewer.

About Kevin Kincaid

Kevin is a bored certified film critic. (Yes, bored is correct. He's tired of Hollywood too)

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