Marshall Curry’s Point and Shoot is a muddled portrait of white-male, middle-class privilege that hinges the majority of its runtime to footage shot by Matthew VanDyke, a Baltimore native determined to find his masculinity via a 35,000-mile motorcycle sojourn through both northern Africa and the Middle East. Ultimately, driven by his initial journey and friendships made, VanDyke decides to return to Libya and fight in the 2011 rebel uprisings against Muammar Gaddafi. VanDyke films nearly everything he encounters, a point Curry seeks to contextualize through an ongoing interview with VanDyke, which is intercut with the vérité footage from both trips. For Curry’s part, he’s interested in understanding VanDyke’s travels through psychologizing bits of home-movie footage, which show him incessantly playing video games and watching movies. These inclusions too neatly root VanDyke’s impending, “free-spirit” decisions in media-influenced reasoning, relying on simple cause and effects, such that VanDyke’s adulthood inclinations are largely explained through his childhood proclivities.
Curry is quick to get VanDyke talking about his privileged upbringing, particularly in the way that it fostered a sense of waywardness following college, but these areas of inquiry quickly collapse in favor of addressing VanDyke’s obsessive-compulsive disorder, which forces him to perpetually wash his hands and, Curry intimates, may be the root of his desire to film nearly everything he encounters. However, in abandoning a more vigorous discussion of class and race-based senses of entitlement, Curry reveals his goals to be less critical or rigid than passively honorific, seeking to uncover VanDyke’s metaphorical ticker without convincingly interrogating the cultural assumptions endemic to those freedoms.
VanDyke’s time in Libya was by no means uneventful; he spent nearly six months held captive and saw several of his fellow rebels killed. However, Curry makes little effort to explain these developments outside of glancing dramatic tactics, such as animating a reenactment of VanDyke’s capture and montaging together news reports for further clarification. Curry appears determined to let VanDyke speak for himself, but that proves problematic, since VanDyke is prone to basic digital-era clichés and simplistic understandings of the ever-increasing drive to have one’s own actions perfected in the digital image. VanDyke films soldiers posing for his camera, even pausing during mid-mission to re-do an action for the take, such that VanDyke insists, “Everybody wants something they can share on Facebook.” Curry does little to examine this proposition; instead, he seems to accept it at face value, as sociological fact. Too little is made of the reflexive capabilities and egos of incessant, narcissistic “shooting.” In turn, the film becomes something like the 101 version of Brian De Palma’s Redacted, a film that blurs the capabilities for regaining moral consequence when images and acts can be comprehensively altered. Point and Shoot, on the other hand, is ultimately as glib as its titular double entendre.