warning! mild spoilers: I try not to go too much into plot details but this review still has spoilers on settings and premise of the episode. so if you haven’t seen it yet and don’t want to be spoiled do not read.
“Men Against Fire” is the fifth episode of the third season of Black Mirror. This episode follows a group of Soldiers and focuses one of these soldiers, a man nicknamed ‘Stripe’, as he and his colleagues sets out on missions to hunt and kill “Roaches”. These special soldiers uses advanced technology and are trained specifically to kill these “roaches”. But Stripe later finds out that “roaches” aren’t exactly what he thought them to be, and this is where the episode gets dark, because Stripe along with all the other soliders are being deceived by advanced technology and the military itself.
This is another concept with a pretty explicit message to it about the dehumanization of enemy combatants in war, and the military’s desire to train soldiers to kill without remorse and always think of themselves as heroes regardless of the true nature of their mission. The way this plays out from a tech angle is that the soldiers in this unspecified future landscape are given brain implants that can do things like project maps in their vision and help with weapon targeting, but it turns out they do much more than that. Like most Black Mirror episodes, “Men Against Fire” is set in a near future where the promise and optimism of 20th- and 21st-century technologies have been gamed out to their frightening but queasily logical conclusions.
The production values on “Men Against Fire” is on par with Black Mirror’s top episode. The acting is good too but even though Malachi Kirby plays the lead, the best performance of the episode was that of Madeline Brewer who did an exceptionally well job playing the ruthless, trigger-happy ‘Raiman’. The episode itself was well written and well executed, but lack the tension that most bleak episodes of Black Mirror possesses. Also the episode had a very bizarre, meaningless ending and when it’s all said and done, the ending was one of the main reasons why this episode will not be considered ‘top notch’. I think more time should’ve been given so that the episode could have a better ending and explore the concept more. Maybe this needed to 90 minute episode instead of “Hated in the Nation”.
Rating “Men Against Fire”:
- Premise: 9/10
- Writing: 7/10
- Plotlines: 7/10
- Acting: 7/10
- Production: 9/10
- Cinematography/Visuals: 8/10
- Soundtrack/Editing/efx: 7/10
Overall Rating: 7.7/10 ★★★★★★★★☆☆