The basic premise seems to be “What if Alex Jones is right?” The film opens with a pitch-perfect impression of Mr. Jones. A fictional show called “Fringe Facts” is used as a framing sequence setting up footage of an attack on personal liberty by the United States Government and warning us of the horror we’re about to witness. The horror of…familial melodrama.
Instead of the promised assault on personal liberty, this found-footage thriller spends seventeen minutes on the melodrama of estranged brothers. Seventeen minutes on them hiking through the woods, then meeting again years later to hash out their problems. Caught in the middle of the family squabble are one brother’s fiancé, another brother’s friend, and a whole coffee house full of people. Now, I have to say, the melodrama shouldn’t have worked. But it does have a raw charm to it. False Flag has an earnestness that is somehow endearing. However, I honestly thought they had accidentally edited a different film into this one. But, after seventeen minutes we get the start of the actual story.
After the brother’s argument, they stumble on to a demonstration. Twenty or so people are mad about…something. It is never made clear. They are so mad that they are marching down the middle of the street and harrumphing and muttering loudly. This is such a danger to public safety that eight police officers in riot gear and an armored truck show up. They use advanced noise weapons on the crowd and our heroes run off with a conspiracy theorist.
“…setting up footage of an attack on personal liberty by the United States Government and warning us of the horror we’re about to witness.”
For some reason in all of this, everyone has their phone out, or a camera in their hand or a camera strapped to their body. Everyone in False Flag is carrying a camera at all times, and it is always on. This will be the most well-documented riot in the history of the world.
The heroes decide to stay with the conspiracy theorist, which makes no sense since the police are looking for her. While on the run the army shows up, closes off the town, and starts rounding up civilians. For…reasons. The older brother is captured, our heroes save a little girl and have to retreat. They run into a pair of survivalist (who also have cameras strapped to their bodies) who convince our heroes that this is a false flag operation and the government is going to kill the detained citizens. For…reasons.
On their way to save the citizens (with the child they saved because…reasons) our heroes talk about their hopes, their fears, and their anxieties really loudly. Apparently, none of them played Metal Gear. Shockingly they manage to get the citizens out, but not without the loss of the younger brother, and the older brother’s fiancé.
“…the melodrama was surprisingly effective…”
There are a few high points. As I said the melodrama was surprisingly effective, but to have flashbacks sprinkled throughout the picture felt odd and forced. As though the editors of the “Fringe Facts” had artistic aspirations. There were some standout performances. Andrew Yackel as Donny Dee tries his best to be the comic relief but is hampered by limp material. The director, Aaron Garett, plays one of the survivalists named Roland. He has a lot of screen presence (despite a ridiculous fake beard) and does a decent job with the action sequences. But again, his writing isn’t helping him out any.
In the end, False Flag is a solid effort and an interesting concept but, the plot becomes more nonsensical as it goes on. Its internal logic breaks down pretty quickly and a post-credit twist destroys it completely.
False Flag (2019) Directed by Aaron Garrett. Written by Aaron Garrett. Starring Justin Monroe, Andrew Yackel, Sean Mount, Jennifer Andrada, Isabella Pucci, and Aaron Garrett.
5 out of 10