Directed by Tobias Lindholm
Company commander Claus Michael Pedersen and his men are stationed in Helmand, Afghanistan. Meanwhile back in Denmark, with a husband at war and three children missing their father, everyday life is a struggle for Claus' wife Maria. During a routine mission, the soldiers are caught in heavy Taliban crossfire. In order to save his men, Claus makes a decision that ultimately sees him return to Denmark accused of a war crime.
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★★★★ review by Jay on Letterboxd
From that languorous opening shot of soldiers trundling through a dusty and deserted plain, which resembles something out of a classic western, A War oozes peril. It is a war film done right, in which the gunfights and action sequences aren't drowning in machismo and the consequences of decisions made in the heat of the moment aren't agonised over as though they are an academic essay on the moral rights and wrongs of conflict but are instead seen solely through the eyes of the characters - men, women and children - they impact most.
Written by Tobias Lindholm (writer and director of A Hijacking, aka the better version of Captain Phillips) A War does not take sides. There are events, there are consequences and people are caught up in the middle. Lindholm's great success is that he allows the audience to make up their own minds. Even the final act, when the drama shifts from the battlefield to a courtroom, the tension never lets up because this isn't a film about guns or soldiers or terrorism, it's a film about people. We invest in these characters because they're authentic, real and flawed.
I'm not a big fan of the "war film" genre as a whole. I tend to find it both simplistic and moralistic, and find that the sympathies of the director and/or writer are often pegged to the mast far too liberally, with no sense of nuance or subtlely. A War, however, is different. It doesn't extol the virtues of the great Western liberators, nor does it condemn the invasion of Afghanistan as evil imperialism - it has no time for that; the war has happened and what's done is done - rather it digs down deep to tell a character-driven story that cares far more about people than it does about politics.
A War really is riveting stuff.
★★★★ review by Mark Cunliffe on Letterboxd
“The issue is not what you have done, but what you do now…”
A War sees writer-director Tobias Lindholm reunite with Pilou Asbæk, Soren Malling and Dar Salim, stars of his previous film A Hijacking, to deliver yet another powerful and arresting, handheld-shot drama that was Denmark's entry for best foreign language film at the 2015 Oscars.
Essentially this is a story of two narratives and two halves; Asbæk’s company commander Claus Michael Pedersen leading his troop in Afghanistan, and his wife Maria (Tuva Novotny) struggling to hold their family of three young children together at home in Denmark. When a decision under enemy fire leads to dire consequences, Klaus is recalled home to face an altogether different kind of battle - one that occurs in the courtroom for both his professional reputation and his freedom.
With cinematographer Magnus Nordenhof Jønck also returning to the fold, what we have with this and the previous A Hijacking is a distinctive and commendable signature in Danish filmmaking; a sort of faux documentary, utterly naturalistic style of storytelling that enhances the inherent tension and provokes much thought regarding the morally grey areas Lindholm's script takes us to. This is mature and intelligent entertainment that seeks to depict what is, I imagine to some, the lesser known role Denmark has played in the Afghan War as opposed to yet another American or British take on the proceedings (yes, other countries were engaged in the conflict!) and avoids the bangs and whistles of Hollywood to offer up a strong, slow burning procedural in the Afghan scenes that put me a little in mind of Alan Clarke's Contact (albeit far more talky!). Indeed, this is so far removed from those usual bangs and whistles that I cannot imagine a US or even a UK film production exploring the same themes of guilt and accountability in quite the same way as A War does.
It was my 37th birthday a week ago today, and this was one of the DVD's I received for it which I've only just got around to watching. Let me tell you, it killed me to amend my profile here from 'mid thirties' to 'late thirties'
★★★★ review by Steven Sheehan on Letterboxd
Following on from his last film A Hijacking, one that was filled with similarly complex moral scenarios, Tobias Lindholm follows up A War. With the two titles so closely matched you tend to think this may be part of a trilogy of some sorts. He also co-wrote The Hunt which again presented a convoluted situation, so it just as likely his approach will always layered with a multitude of angles.
His handheld, in the moment style continues here, joining a Danish military company as they patrol Afghanistan. The potential death of one of the men while in action leads their commander to make a call that allows their escape but leaves devastation behind them. One half of the film embeds us into their world out in the barren sand lands before a far more sterile, examining court trial unfolds back home in the second hour.
Lindholm gives us a lot to chew over in a well paced and thought out drama. From the struggles of how families cope alone while their partners are on tour, how accountability for war field actions extend into the family home, the welfare of solders versus civilians, responsibility under pressure, to the level of guilt they should carry...the writing and performances allow us to continuously see both sides of the arguments.
The United States and the UK are often seen at the forefront of the 'War on Terror,' so it is easy to forget nearly fifty countries assisted in the coalition effort. Seeing a Danish take on the war reminds of us that wider network without placing it under a political banner. Lindholm combines both the war and courtroom elements together with narrative ease, never losing its edge or ability to accuse and defend those involved.
★★★★ review by Varghese Eapen on Letterboxd
How does one choose side in a war no one ever asked for in the first place? Do we save our own men or think about the safety of others? A subject done right..I am not tying to compare but this is how American Sniper should have been at least the domestic parts. The acting is good but more importantly it questions our moral compass on what is right and what is wrong. A well deserved Oscar Best Foreign Film Nominee.
★★★★ review by Auteur on Letterboxd
From the director of A Hijacking, and the writer of The Hunt and this year's The Commune, comes A War, causing me to wait with bated breath for whatever his next film is titled. This one is pretty riveting once it gets going, after spending a rather aimless first third following a Danish company at war in Afghanistan. Krigen - I much prefer the foreign title - is ultimately an exploration of one of the many controversial can of worms opened up by the twenty-first century's war on terror. I won't say what, since the film takes pains to get there on its own, but suffice it to say the courtroom and family drama that dominates the second half is gripping and thought-provoking stuff.
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