Point and Shoot
By David Costill
8 (out of 10) Stars
Modern masculinity is a complex idea, which has most recently been explored in a narrative sense in films like Julia Loktev’s The Loneliest Planet and Ruben Östlund’s Force Majeure. It seems like Marshall Curry sought out to explore those same themes with his latest documentary Point and Shoot, and while it works as a brilliant commentary on masculinity, the film becomes so much more than that. I’ll admit that Point and Shoot‘s description leaves much to be desired: a 30 something man child decides he doesn’t want to be so dependent anymore and travel to the Middle East to fight in wars and film himself on a motorcycle. But almost from the moment you meet Matt VanDyke on screen you will have to fight not become enamored by his bizarrely captivating personality. There is something slightly off about Matt, and when he started on his self proclaimed “crash course in manhood”, I found myself thanking god that he brought a camera along.
Matt made the news for being one of the only Americans to fight in the Libyan civil war, and this must have been what initially got the attention of film-maker Marshall Curry. However, that is quite possibly the least interesting thing going here. Matt was raised by his single mother, and spoiled his entire life — seriously, while in his 30’s she would still do all of his grocery shopping for him and pay all of his bills. There is something oddly inspiring about Matt’s quest, because it required a lot of self reflection and self motivation — albeit almost all completely misdirected. That misdirection comes in the form of the action movies that Matt grew up watching, such as Indiana Jones. So Matt decides to buy a motorcycle, a video camera, and then heads off to hit every Arab speaking country on the map.
This adventure is compounded by Matt’s complete lack of experience with ANYTHING. Despite that, he manages to bumble his way into some pretty amazing situations, such as sneaking his way into Iran and becoming embedded with the United States military in Iraq. There is yet another element to all of this: Matt suffers from a severe case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which when coupled with the complete lack of any western comforts in the Middle East, makes for some pretty interesting scenarios. For example, at times Matt would hit some severe bumps on the highway, then slowly convince himself that he hit a person as the miles went by, eventually doubling back just to ease his mind. At one point in the film, while giving his face to face interview with Marshall Curry, Matt abruptly gets up mid-conversation and goes to wash his hands. This guy’s issues are no joke.
Once the unrest in Lybia begins to spark a collapse of governments, Matt finds himself in the middle of a war, carrying an assault rifle and firing at the enemy. Watching Matt grow from the beginning of this film to the moments it culminates are severely rewarding, if not mildly disturbing. He is utterly fascinating to watch, with piercing gray eyes and a clumsy Baltimore accent — somewhat of a poster child for a generation of misguided man children. It is transformative in every sense of the word, a strangely inspiring tale that will leave you wanting to discuss it for hours. While Point and Shoot may not be the most prestigious or best documentary, it is without a doubt my favorite one this year.