Almost Sunrise Film Review :
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The epic journey of two friends, ex-soldiers, who battle the moral injuries of war, and the temptation to escape through suicide, as they walk across America.
Last year a very unusual movie came out of China called “Paths of the Soul.” One thing that was unusual about it was that Chinese censors didn’t stamp on a movie that portrayed Tibet, and Tibetan Buddhism, in a positive light. Another was the movie’s subject, an over 1,000 mile journey by foot undertaken by a group of poor Tibetans, a pilgrimage to visit some of their religion’s most holy sites. It was inspiring, moving, sometimes funny. It was hard to imagine a similar journey taking place in the States.
“Almost Sunrise,” a picture credited as by Michael Collins and Marty Syjuco (Collins directed, Syjuco is one of the producer) tells of an even longer walk, from a war memorial in Milwaukee Wisconsin to California, undertaken by two Iraqi war vets. It is in a very real sense a spiritual journey, but one of healing rather than worship. The movie begins with a definition of “Moral Injury.” It is, according to the onscreen text, “a wound to the soul” caused by committing acts “against our sense of right and wrong.” The movie begins with Tom Voss, over video footage of him waving flags as a child in the early ‘80s, saying “I have a lot of military history in my family.” In his home town of Milwaukee, nine years after his return from the war in Iraq, the movie shows a boarded-up building with signs in the window reading “Peace In Our City” and “Peace In Our Selves.” After Tom tells his story of an inability to find the latter, the movie shifts to fellow vet Anthony Anderson, whose big brown beard gives him a resemblance to Tom. He tells the camera, “I don’t want people to be around me so I make it intolerable for people to be around me.” He looks for help, but notes, “The VA as an institution sucks. Because they make mistakes and say it’s your fault.” Around this point the movie tells us that 20 veterans a day commit suicide.