Synopsis: Company commander Claus M. Pedersen and his men are stationed in an Afghan province. Meanwhile, back in Denmark, Claus’ wife Maria is trying to hold everyday life together with a husband at war and three children missing their father. During a routine mission, the soldiers are caught in heavy crossfire and in order to save his men, Claus makes a decision that has grave consequences for him – and his family back home.
Release Date: February 26, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, War
In the Best Foreign Language Film category of this year’s Academy Awards, it’s hard to imagine any of the nominees beating out the Hungarian holocaust drama Son of Saul. But, set in a different time during a different war, Denmark’s entry, the simply-titled A War, may just give Son of Saul a run for its money.
A War is about a Danish military leader named Claus Michael Pedersen (Pilou Asbæk from Lucy) who is stationed in Afghanistan with his company. While Claus and his troops work to simultaneously fight the Taliban and help Afghani civilians, his wife, Maria (Slim Susie‘s Tuva Novotny), is left alone back in Denmark to raise their children. While on a routine mission, Claus and his men find themselves pinned down by enemy fire, and he makes a decision that saves them – but it also gets him sent home to stand trial for violating the laws of warfare.
Writer/director Tobias Lindholm (A Hijacking, R) neatly divides A War down the middle into two chapters. The first shows the visceral chaos and heartbreak of the actual war. At the midway point of the movie, it changes into a courtroom drama, every bit as emotional and suspenseful, but not quite as guttural. As different as they are, both halves of the film are gripping, and A War does a great job of showing that not all fights that occur during a time of war take place on the battlefield.
For being a movie about war, A War is surprisingly neutral. The movie passes no judgement on the events of the war itself, it only shows the humanistic side of the conflict. It is more concerned with how combat affects the soldiers and civilians on a personal level rather than any world-scale implications. While Claus is away, the kids act out, forcing Maria to play both mother and father to them, dealing with issues like schoolyard fights and rebellious children that, if Claus were present, would be easy to squash. Claus himself is torn between possibly sacrificing the lives of his soldiers and giving an order that may or may not lead to heavy civilian casualties. The non-Taliban Afghani people who interact with Claus and his men are terrified of their oppressors, begging the Danish soldiers to help them. A War is about more than just war; it’s about human nature under dreadful conditions.
A War is a well-crafted movie that makes an important statement about humanity and conflict. The intelligent script, some masterful filmmaking, and a pair of brilliant performances from Pilou Asbæk and Tuva Novotny seamlessly mesh together to form a work of art that is both insightful and emotional. It doesn’t have quite the same stomach-punch that Son of Saul has, but A War is still an extremely compelling film in its own right.
For the photography in A War, Tobias Lindholm used his usual cinematographer Magnus Nordenhof Jønck (Bridgend). Jønck utilizes shaky handheld camerawork for most of the movie – not only for the war scenes, but for the home front and courtroom scenes as well. The camera motion illustrates a unified unsettledness within the characters for the entire picture. Jønck’s camera is more observational than creative, showing what is happening with a fly-on-the-wall-type of a presence. For the war scenes, the camera follows the action in a way that is both claustrophobic and chaotic. For the courtroom scenes, Jønck builds suspense and tension by fluidly and restlessly shifting from face to face, from witness to lawyer to accused, never letting the audience get completely comfortable with the proceedings. Whether in the trenches of Afghanistan or in a courtroom in Denmark, the cinematography in A War keeps the audience shifting in its seat.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Tobias Lindholm
- Producer(s): Rene EzraTomas Radoor
- Screenwriter(s): Tobias Lindholm
- Cast: Pilou Asbæk (Claus Michael Pedersen)Tuva Novotny (Maria Pedersen)Dar Salim (Najib Bisma) Søren Malling (Martin R. Olsen)Charlotte Munck (Lisbeth Danning)Alex Høgh Andersen (Anders)Dulfi A-Jabouri (Lufti Hassan)Jakob Frølund (Terkel Sand)Phillip Sem Dambæk (Brian Brask)
- Editor(s): Adam Nielsen
- Cinematographer: Magnus Nordenhof Jønck
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Louize Nissen
- Casting Director(s): Tanja Grunwald
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: Denmark