I’ve trashed Alexander Moors‘ The Yellow Birds two or three times since I caught it at Sundance ’17. It’s a reasonably intelligent PTSD drama (i.e., Iraq), but it’s slow and never lifts off and I wound up kinda hating it for the most part. If you ask me Alden Ehrenreich sinks it singlehandedly with his sullen, all-but-unreadable performance as a veteran with a gnawing secret.
The two best things about it are the performances by Toni Collette and Jennifer Aniston, as distraught mothers of Ehrenreich and costar Tye Sheridan‘s characters.
After months of silence and invisibility, The Yellow Birds has finally delivered a trailer. It’ll be released exclusively on DIRECTV between 5.17 and 6.13; Saban Films will open it theatrically on 6.15.
Based on a 2012 novel by Iraq War veteran Kevin Powers, it’s about the investigation of the death of an Iraq War combatant named “Murph” (Tye Sheridan), but is more precisely about evasions and suppressions on the part of Murph’s PTSD-aflicted comrade, John Bartie (Ehrenreich), when he returns home.
Murph’s mom Maureen (Aniston) naturally wants to know what happened, and Bartie’s mom Amy (Collette) is seriously concerned about her son’s totally withdrawn, zombie-like manner. There’s also a Sergeant Sterling (Jack Huston) with his own buried trauma issues, and a CID investigator (Jason Patric) with a persistent interest in what happened between Murph and John.
I for one sat in my Eccles seat in a state of numb submission, toughing it out and waiting for something (anything!) interesting to happen. Paul Haggis‘ In The Valley Of Elaah (’07), which uses a similar plot and mood, is far more compelling. The title of this post, by the way, alludes to a 20th Century racist slur about Asians. From a 1967 N.Y. Times story: “In his carefully prepared and impassioned defense of the Johnson administration’s Vietnam policy, Secretary of State Dean Rusk has revived the old emotional dread of ‘The Yellow Peril.'”