A War ★★★★

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.

Jay liked this review