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Kajaki - DVD Review

Kajaki

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

THE war against terror has proved a fertile hunting ground for many American filmmakers, many of whom have subsequently delivered modern classics (from The Hurt Locker through Zero Dark Thirty to this year’s American Sniper).

Thus far, British cinema’s contribution has been minimal. But Kajaki changes that.

Small in budget but worthy of positioning itself among the very best war films ever made, this true story is often gut-wrenchingly powerful stuff – and perhaps all the more memorable for its lack of star firepower or overly showy directorial gestures.

The story relates to a little known incident in 2006 when a handful of paras find themselves trapped in a minefield after one of their unit has his leg blown off.

The ensuing drama is nail-biting stuff as various attempts to rescue and save their brother in arms merely place more lives in danger.

Paul Katis’ film may be a little slow out of the blocks as it seeks to show the remoteness of life on patrol in the Kajaki district of Afghanistan, while also offering some insight into the personalities behind the characters, but once the drama kicks in it exhibits a vice-like grip on both your attention and your emotions.

Make no mistake, this is taut and increasingly harrowing stuff as time begins to run out for the injured men.

What’s more, it cleverly showcases another side to conflict that has just as many ramifications for soldiers and civilian survivors as the current hot topic that is drones. The mines left behind from the Russian conflict in Afghanistan are the enemy here, invisibly lying in wait to tear bodies apart in the blink of a mis-step.

If the not knowing where to tread element lends the film its sustained tension, then the resulting damage is what gives Kajaki its heart and soul, for while most of the film’s cast are unknown, their performances feel raw and terrifyingly real once the proverbial shit hits the fan.

There’s terror, bravery, sadness and confusion on display, all of which is displayed in unshowy, frighteningly realistic fashion (along with the gory extent of the wounds).

Indeed, such is the masterful way in which Katis draws you in, you’ll feel the same frustrations and fears as the men themselves, holding your breath as the clock ticks down to death or rescue.

It’s for these reasons and more that Kajaki has to rate as a bravura piece of filmmaking: tense, intelligent, resonant and ultimately extremely poignant, it’s an unforgettable portrait of modern combat that demands to be seen by as many people as possible.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 108mins
UK DVD and Blu-ray Release: June 8, 2015