There are plenty of movies out there that take a look at the casualties of war. Probably not the physically ailed populous that get bombed by every country that ever lived. Ever. But the Western culture chooses to immortalise the struggle of those doing the firing. From American Sniper to Eye in the Sky, there have been a barrage of movies that tackle the inner workings of soldiers on the front line, their mentality blown to pieces like those they choose to shoot at….
OK. I’m being heavily disrespectful and cynical because I do have deep respect for soldiers who are forced into war by government’s nefarious schemes and ploys in the same way I have respect for those caught in the crossfire. What is alarming is the choice to focus on one and not the other, it seems very one sided.
So when A War came out, the recent Danish contender for the Academy Award, there was skeptism that this movie would do justice to – not only the pain and strife of our leading soldier – but to the world and the people around him, suffering at his hand.
But in the hands of Tobias Lindholm, who also directed A Hijacking and The Hunt, A War manages to portray the intricacies and difficulties of warfare without over-simplifying or sugar-coating the emotion.
Anyway, Danish movie A War looks to be a poignant and thrilling drama about the Afghan war. Starring Pilou Asbæk, it revolve around Claus who is on tour within an Afghan war whilst his wife Maria is holding day to day life together. However, when they find themselves in a troubling situation, he makes a decision that could impact the lives of his men and his family back at home.
Lindholm has never been a director to shy away from excavating truth in all its gritty emotion. The film director can masterfully command the screen with enthralling effect. The first half of the film feels clichéd and reminiscent more of war films that have come beforehand. Despite the hand-held camera shaking nail-biting tension through your skin, you can never shake The Hurt Locker heroic likeness so immortalised in Katherine Bigalow’s film that no other can escape allusions.
Yet Lindholm is clear to never stray from the narrative and themes of the film – the consequence of action and how bravery is only celebrated if there is no loss of life. The conflict here evolves A War from the usual war garb and into an intellectual struggle between who is actually right and wrong when it comes to battle. Lindholm explores a deeper side than just the initial pain of war and the unfolding of the war crime and trial juxtaposes the grittiness fantastically well. In fact, it deepens the tension as the palpable courtroom sweats like the heat of the desert.
Rising actor Pilou Asbæk is a revelation, at least to English speaking audiences, and a commander Claus Michael Pederson, you see the visceral conflict etched in his fibre, his being, and every second he is on the big screen you are absorbed into this soldier’s journey: As someone who is punished for trying to survive but also as someone who must pay for his actions. Asbæk is a marvel and does well to establish a connection with the audience. Tuva Novotny is splendid as his suffering wife, trying to keep the situation away from her family both physically and mentally too. It’s an terrific cast effort that brings Lindholm’s work to stunning realisation.
One of the best war movies you’ll ever witness, A War is a superb, deep, and full of emotional turmoil. Most remarkably, however, is Lindholm’s astute awareness of the real casualties of war…
A War is out on DVD and Blu-Ray now!