PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — The cast and filmmakers behind "The Yellow Birds," an adaption of Iraq vet Kevin Powers' bestseller that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this past week, wanted to show another side of war — that of the lost individual.
"At the moment things tend to glorify war," said Jack Huston, who plays a sergeant. "It's great to show a heroes story, but what it does is it makes people want to go and be a hero and it's not always that simple. War is bleak, it's tough, it's brutal. People go home and don't come back physically and mentally ... I had no interest in making a war film. I wanted to make a film about the guys who go to war and what happens to them over there and what they bring back with them."
Director Alexandre Moors said he, too, wanted to show what happens to "the guys that crack, the guys that run away." His film, a follow-up to his poetic D.C. sniper film "Blue Caprice," is a lyrical, sometimes surreal and often harrowing portrait of a few individuals during and after their service, tied up in the mysterious disappearance of one of their own.
Tye Sheridan, who plays a particularly sensitive 18-year-old enlistee, said that the haunting story "really opened my eyes to how damaging it can be to someone."
"The Yellow Birds," which does not yet have distribution, is mostly presented through the eyes of Bartles, played by Alden Ehrenreich, who couldn't attend the Festival due to the production schedule for the "Young Han Solo" Star Wars spinoff.
"I hadn't seen a contemporary war story told in this kind of tone from this kind of vantage point," Ehrenreich said in a phone interview from London. To prepare, he and his cast mates read Powers' novel and learned about the idea of moral injury in a boot camp with Dale Dye, famous for prepping actors on "Platoon."
But the film is just as much about what happens at home as it is on the battlefield, embodied in the experience of a few of the soldiers' mothers, played by Toni Collette and Jennifer Aniston, who also produced.
"One of the things that I think is special about the movie is that it really underlines the experience of parents, especially the mothers, whose kids are really young people going to war and it really puts an eye on the experience that these mothers go through," said Ehrenreich, who was impressed that Aniston wanted to be part of it.
"She's been America's sweetheart for a long time and now she's telling a very different story about America," he said.
AP Entertainment Reporter Ryan Pearson contributed from Park City, Utah.
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