Review: Black Mirror, Men Against Fire
You know when you feel so anxious with anticipation about something but you know you have to wait a while for that event to happen and you feel so frustrated because, for God’s sake, why can’t it just happen now? The world is an extremely unfair place and for it to have withheld the new season of Black Mirror for such an abominable amount of time is an almost grotesque act of unkindness.
However, this feeling is now over and all I am left with is this sense of horrible disappointment. I realise the vast majority of people are singing their praises and saying how Charlie Brooker has smashed it yet again, but I could not disagree more.
Men Against Fire in particular was high on my list of failures by Brooker. Now don’t get me wrong, the plot was exciting and fast-paced, but it lacked originality. The message Brooker tried to give off was way too transparent and the atmosphere was nowhere near gritty enough. Dark it certainly was, and cleverly futuristic? Yes, that too. But it wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before.
Where was the more subtle political message from The National Anthem or Fifteen Million Merits? What Brooker has attempted to achieve is to add variety to the season by adding more diversity in the genres for each episode however in doing so he has lost any distinctive creativeness or excitement that was prevalent in the first two seasons. To me, it seems as if he is trying to appeal to a wider audience (namely the American one) and in doing so he has lost any ability to surprise us.
Men Against Fire deals with the theme of refugees and war and how the media and the government manipulate the way we view them. In typical Brooker fashion, he sculpts the entire plot around a futuristic technological aspect. Malachi Kirby, our star of the episode admittedly plays an outstanding performance as the hero, Stripe. He skilfully portrays what it means to be truly human, the way in which we strive to be good people but ultimately, under the right circumstances we fail and it’s this failure that we aim to forget at all costs.
What is meant to be the most distinctive aspect of the episode is the fact that the enemy are made up to be disfigured humans and referred to as “roaches”, an obvious allusion to the way we treat current refugees or victims of war in other countries, such as Syria. Madeleine Brewer from Orange is the New Black revives her role as an addict, but this time, she is addicted to a different kind of shooting. One particularly haunting line, and perhaps the only one that made any impression on me is when she comments to Stripe (after having killed multiple “roaches”) “You know if I got two in one go, I would want to come for like an hour!”. This to me sums up Brooker’s intention with the episode. The way we perceive refugees and victims of war is similar to the way we view cockroaches.
Unfortunately however, this message only comes across as familiar and whilst the moral of this story needs to be told and understood considering the tragic and urgent crisis currently going on, in terms of plot and style it left me yearning for the old, messed up Brooker, who left your mouth literally hanging wide open. I needed more shrewd realism rather than such a full on and outspoken critique, something that would have stood out to me more than this.