At the Movies: The Objective

This is a film review of Daniel Myrick’s The Objective (2008) with an eye towards using it in Call of Cthulhu games, especially with the Delta Green setting.


Stop reading if you want to avoid SPOILERS.

Afghanistan, 2001. A half-sized A Team from a US Army National Guard Special Forces unit, including an attached Australian SASR trooper on exchange, is commandeered by a CIA operative for a special mission. The soldiers are told it is a simple manhunt for an Afghan cleric. As it turns out, the mission’s real objective is to locate a supernatural phenomenon.

This has to be one of the best fits for an actual Delta Green campaign. There is the enigmatic CIA officer (Jonas Ball), who is the only one who knows about the actual mission; he is in frequent satellite phone-contact with his unseen superiors. He could be a DELTA GREEN agent who is prepared to sacrifice a bunch of Friendlies for the greater good, but he might just as well be a MAJESTIC-12 operative. There are the “expendable” special ops troops roped unknowingly into a suicide mission, reminding of Colonel Satchel Wade’s Operation OBSIDIAN (1969), if on a smaller scale. There is the steadily deteriorating morale and sanity of the men, as one by one gets killed by unseen opponents that prove invulnerable to the group’s heavy firepower. There are the historical references, tying the phenomenon to a disastrous operation of the British Army in 1842 and as far back as Alexander the Great. There is the single survivor, who, driven quite insane, is nevertheless spared for some obscure, alien purpose.

The supernatural phenomenon turns out to be a Vimāna, the “chariot of the gods” in Indian mythology – basically an UFO. It is easily replaced by or explained away as any one of a number of Mythos threats, starting with the Mi-Go (and their Greys).

The setting isolates the characters from the outside world, one of the most effective tools in telling a horror story. It does this quite naturally by both putting them in a remote area, cutting them off from evacuation and resupply, and by rendering their modern communication gear ineffective.

The Objective also shows how to deal with what is often seen as a problem in Cthulhu Now or Delta Green settings – lots of firepower. The Special Forces have all the gear, including Colt M4A1 assault carbines, BPT M25 sniper rifles, Colt M203A2 grenade launchers (yeah, I know they are using the R/M M203PI as prop, but clearly they are meant to be the real thing), FN M249E2 light machine guns ‒ see Investigator Weapons 2: Modern Day for descriptions and stats of all this stuff. Surprisingly for a film of this type, the actors even handle them quite realistically, making the action believable ‒ some of the actors are reportedly actual veterans, and all have been expertly coached. Yet, with all their weapons, the characters achieve exactly nothing against the supernatural threat. This is how you deal with investigators loaded for bear, not with the all-too-common hair-pulling and foul-play-crying of Keepers who had their pet Shoggoth killed with a submachine gun …

Using the rating system pioneered by The Unspeakable Oath, The Objective rates eight phobias.