Some great films have been made about the horrific Iraq War, from The Hurt Locker to Stop-Loss, though not every movie to explore the human face of the conflict has met with success. Green Zone and Body of Lies stand as the two most prominent examples of films which failed to add anything to the national discussion of American foreign policy in the war-torn nation. It’s too early to tell whether The Yellow Birds, an adaptation of the 2012 National Book Award finalist by Kevin Powers, will fall into the former category or the latter. However, early signs are highly promising.
This week, Benedict Cumberbatch, Will Poulter and Tye Sheridan signed on to star in the film. Poulter is set to play a 21-year-old who meets a young recruit (Sheridan) in boot camp and, at the prompting of the boy’s mother, agrees to watch his back when they are deployed to Iraq. Cumberbatch will play Sergeant Sterling, who becomes a mentor for the pair.
Anyone who read Powers’ novel can attest to the fact that it tells a moving, heartbreaking and eye-opening story about young men at war. I’m very excited to see The Yellow Birds turned into a film, and the three actors tapped for the lead roles all appear to be superb choices.
All three are talented but relatively fresh faces in Hollywood. Cumberbatch was sky-rocketed to fame after starring in the BBC series Sherlock, and he’s also known for his roles in Star Trek Into Darkness and 12 Years a Slave. Poulter, meanwhile, was widely hailed as the breakout star of 2013’s comedy hit We’re the Millers and has a string of buzzy projects in the works, including YA adaptation The Maze Runner. Finally, Sheridan earned raves for his role in the Matthew McConaughey vehicle Mud and followed that role up with a strong turn in Joe.
David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) will both direct The Yellow Birds and pen the screenplay, working from Powers’ novel. As long as he doesn’t take liberties with the story or major themes, I’m expecting The Yellow Birds to emerge as a potential awards contender, likely in 2015 or 2016, given its stellar cast.