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By Jeremy Mathews | June 21, 2008

Soldiers accomplish a feat simply by making their way through the military. But they’re well aware that nothing can prepare them for combat. “American Son” seeks to understand and empathize with a young soldier who will soon put his life on the line. The film isn’t about war or patriotism, but the life that a Marine leaves behind to fulfill his duties.

As such, director Neil Abramson approaches the material in a reserved, observational manner, and lets the life of Mike (Nick Cannon), a young Marine, speak for itself. The film depicts Mike’s four days of leave in his hometown, before he leaves for Iraq. Abramson creates a naturalistic and accurate of unchained youth with parties, cars and and care-free time-wasting. It’s a world that the young soldier used to be a part of, and visits it with a new perspective and the knowledge that it will never be the same again.

Cannon’s performance as Mike carries the film. He expresses fear of the uncertain and a premature nostalgia for the life he left behind. In the opening scene, Mike chooses not to tell his friends, family members or the cute girl (Melonie Diaz) he falls for on the bus. Mike attracts Diaz’s character with his charm and enthusiasm, and wants a long-term relationship with her. But neither kid knows how or if such a relationship could develop. All Mike knows for certain is that troubling times lie ahead.

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