Men Go to Battle, a film produced by Steven Schardt, a local filmmaker who has played an important role in Lynn Shelton's rise to fame, is a film shot on a very, very small budget and set in the very distant year of 1861. It is usually not a good idea to bring those two extremes—a tiny budget and a faraway period—together. The cost of producing historically accurate costumes, interiors, and even performances is usually high. Men Go to Battle, however, looks and feels very real. There is not a moment in this film that breaks the illusion of the material reality of its period (the middle of the 19th century) and location (Kentucky).
In fact, a big-budget film like The Revenant looks kind of phony when compared with Men Go to Battle. Why? Because the money that made The Revenant is very visible (particularly in the bear that attacks Leonardo DiCaprio), and the money that made Men Go to Battle is not. What we instead see is a world that appears to be very close to that era. The white dirt on a black jacket, the roughness and age of a blanket, a rickety room filled raw morning light, the harshness of the land, the sparks from a fire, the breath of a horse, the blue of an old-fashioned dress, the odd products in a general store, the sad and soiled shoes of a farmer.
What replaced money in Men Go to Battle is the expert art and economy of the director (Zachary Treitz), the cinematographer (Brett Jutkiewicz), and costume designer (Elizabeth Crum). The story, which involves two brothers, and has the Civil War as its background, is minimal, the acting instinctive, and the sounds natural. Watching this movie is like spending a day in those distant and dusty times.