Alden Ehrenreich leads a strong cast in this story of an Iraq War soldier and his return home

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A thoroughly downcast look at war and the lingering effects it has on young soldiers, "The Yellow Birds" is a difficult film that hammers home its point that war is a living hell that extends far beyond the battlefield. 

Alden Ehrenreich, currently taking a beating as the star of "Solo: A Star Wars Story," takes center stage here as Brandon Bartle, a soldier deployed to fight in Iraq. He does strong work as a young man haunted by the ghosts of what he's seen and experienced, and "The Yellow Birds" -- filmed well before "Solo" -- shows he has more to offer beyond stepping into the shadow of Harrison Ford. (He'd have been well-served had this film been released before "Solo," although ironically, it was likely his role in "Solo" that helped ensure "Birds'" release.)  

Bartle is paired with Daniel Murphy ("Ready Player One's" Tye Sheridan), and they buddy up and form a bond. Back home, Bartle has problems readjusting to society, and he physically attacks his mother (Toni Collette). Meanwhile, he's troubled by a promise he made to Murph's mother (Jennifer Aniston), who is looking for answers following the disappearance of her son. 

"The Yellow Birds," based on Kevin Powers' 2012 novel, is heavy; there's no light at the end of the tunnel for any of the characters. French director Alexandre Moors, who has directed music videos for Kendrick Lamar, Jennifer Lopez and Miguel, deals with the hard choices, loss, pain, heartache and mental anguish suffered at the hands of soldiers, and presents his narrative in a jumbled timeline that mirrors the confusion of war. That he does so without compromise makes "The Yellow Birds" that much harder to shake. 

agraham@detroitnews.com

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@grahamorama

'The Yellow Birds'

GRADE: B

Rated R for war violence, some grisly images, sexual material, and language throughout

Running time: 94 minutes

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