The majority of the producers behind the new military drama Allegiance served their country with honor. That doesn't mean the film, available this week on Blu-ray and DVD, is a predictably rah-rah affair.
Writer/director Michael Connors says the film's gray areas attracted the financiers to the project.
“They were most interested in more of a realistic view … not about any specific agenda,” Connors tells Big Hollywood.
Allegiance stars Seth Gabel (Fringe) as a lieutenant forced to choose sides when a soldier (music star Bow Wow) threatens to go AWOL when his request to spend time with his dying son is denied. Gabel's character avoids going to Iraq thanks to family connections, but his fellow officer's plight causes him to question his own behavior while examining what it means to serve one's country.
Soldiers refusing their duty is hardly a new theme in Hollywood. The 2008 film Stop Loss tread similar ground, but the soldiers in Allegiance come primarily from the National Guard, weekend warriors not expecting to get thrust into battle. And these characters take their service very seriously.
Connors' feature came directly from the “write what you know” school of training. He served in the ROTC as a student attending MIT, but after honoring his four-year commitment he was later called to active duty while he was prepping his thesis film project about … a National Guardsman being called to active duty.
The Army gave him six months to complete his thesis, but life didn't ultimately imitate art. The policy that summoned Connors and his fellow National Guardsmen was scrapped, but he ended up completing both the short film and, eventually, the full-length feature it inspired.
Connors says casting the film in the world of the National Guard sets it apart from most war-themed features.
“It's not like an active duty unit, which has a much more committed mentality,” he says. National Guard members “have civilian jobs and lives.”
Allegiance features Hollywood veterans like Aidan Quinn and Malik Yoba, but it's still a low-budget affair. Connors says Hollywood wouldn't even consider making a movie like it.
"When I got out to Hollywood after film school no one wanted to touch anything about the military," he says.
A few film critics have labeled Allegiance as excessively patriotic, a notion that surprises Connors.
“People were expecting a different sort of movie given the subject matter,” he says. "I didn't want to get into the nitty-gritty politics of Iraq. This is a small movie about loyalty and guilt."