This sombre, typically Scandinavian drama explores the reality of modern conflict from an intensely personal perspective. It starts as a ‘war is hell’ movie and ends as a courtroom drama, debating the moral dimension of military action.
The protagonist is forced to make a choice in the heat of battle, and must then accept responsibility for the consequences of his decision. In many ways it’s a metaphor for western involvement in so many current conflicts. This cast is Danish (the dialogue is subtitled) but the situation is truly international.
‘A War’ cleverly captures the tedium and tension of soldiering in occupied territory, where daily monotony is suddenly punctured by violence, injury and death. It demonstrates the seeming utter futility of troops given a near-impossible task in Afghanistan, and highlights the isolation and stress of the commanding officer and his men. It also sensitively portrays how this separation and pressure can affect the most supportive spouse and family, without stooping to shrieking stereotypes.
This is an intelligent, emotionally engaging film. It doesn’t say anything especially new, but it certainly draws together many troubling threads and blends them into a troubling, tense examination of modern morals. The performances are credible, even if there’s some dramatic licence in the final resolution.
A thought-provoking film – definitely not action-adventure. Recommended if you enjoyed The Hurt Locker or Green Zone.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
A War is being shown on BBC4 in March 2018, and is available on DVD
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