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A War - DVD Review

A War

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DANISH filmmaker Tobias Lindholm is quickly establishing himself as something of a deft hand at delivering intelligent, morally and ethically challenging dramas, as evidenced by his screenplay for The Hunt, as well as his directing of both A Hijacking and now A War.

The latter tackles the thorny issue of Afghanistan and the complexity of the war against terror.

It unfolds largely from the perspective of Company Commander Claus Michael Pedersen (Pilou Asbæk), who is stationed in the Helmand province with his men. Inherently decent and prone to putting himself on the front line, Pederson has only recently overseen the death of one of his men in an IED encounter while on routine patrol.

When more of his men are later caught in heavy crossfire, he is forced to make a snap decision that results in the loss of civilian casualties, prompting his immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan and a trial back home.

Facing a maximum of four years in prison, Claus must decide whether to place the needs of his own family first, or to admit to his mistake and take the punishment on the chin.

Lindholm’s film therefore works on three levels: as a tense war film that examines the dangers of war from a commander’s perspective, as a domestic drama that examines the emotional consequences for those family members waiting for a loved one to return home, and as an intriguing courtroom drama that calls into question the legality of decisions made in the heat of battle.

That it succeeds in engaging on all three of those levels is tribute to Lindholm’s skill as both writer and director, for it is never less than gripping and always emotionally compelling.

The scenes in Afghanistan have a raw authenticity that’s comparable to other great war on terror movies such as The Hurt Locker and Kajaki: A True Story, while those at home convey an everyday reality that’s easy to identify with and sometimes relate to (such as the challenges of raising children).

The courtroom scenes, meanwhile, tap into the complexity of the issue at hand, highlighting the disparity between the rulebook and the morality of what unfolds at ground level, where innocent children are regularly used as shields by an enemy who shows scant regard for human rights.

In doing so, it also affords room for some suitably complex performances with Asbæk especially good as Claus, especially during the latter scenes in which his own moral code is severely tested. But Tuva Novotny is also good value as his wife, Maria, conveying the struggles of single parenthood in convincing fashion and emerging as a fierce defender of her own family when her husband’s freedom is jeopardised.

A War therefore rates as another of those movies with its finger on the pulse of current events that deserves to find a much wider audience than it will probably get. What’s more, it serves as an excellent companion piece to the similarly challenging Eye In The Sky, engaging on an emotional and intellectual level that’s difficult to dismiss.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 112mins
UK Blu-ray and DVD Release: May 9, 2016