Starring Pilou Asbæk, Tuva Novotny, Dar Salim, Søren Malling
Even though the 88th Annual Academy Awards are in the books, foreign film nominee A War is finally making its theatrical debut. It’s the 13th time Denmark has been nominated in the category, certainly a country favorite of the committee. However, after seeing a variety of the foreign film submissions this year, A War doesn’t stand out or high above overlooked contenders The Wave, Second Mother or Labyrinth of Lies. Director Tobias Lindholm (A Hijacking) brings a similarly gritty aesthetic to this picture that explores the pressure between a husband and wife, one at war, the other trying to keep a family together. Morality and karma also big themes in the picture.
Claus Michael Pedersen (Asbæk) listens to his wife on the phone, talking about the struggle she faces, raising their three children at home alone. Commander Pedersen is in the Danish armed forces, stationed in Afghanistan. A beloved unit leader, often embedding himself in the daily walks the soldiers take, looking for IED’s and building relations with the local community. His wife Maria (Novotny) is having a hard time with their middle child who is fighting at school and acting out at home. She worries about her husband’s safety, her sanity and the upbringing of their children with a father who is constantly out of their lives.
The equal screen time between the events in Afghanistan and back home provide the audience with a visual contrast that drives home the films message.
The equal screen time between the events in Afghanistan and back home provide the audience with a visual contrast that drives home the films message. The juxtaposition between the struggles of both characters provide many unanswered questions about family planning, career paths and choices. A War does shift however when Claus makes certain decisions that lands him in court over the death of civilians. If you compare the methods seen in this film to American war films depicting the same events, these Danish soldiers appear amateur, surprisingly unprepared, unprofessional and seemingly have no business in the roles they assume. More than one scene depicts Claus and other members of his unit in complete panic under extreme circumstances.
In the third act with the trial proceedings, the editing really moves the film along, highlighting the important proceedings. The condensing in this act could have been applied to the entire film, as the first two acts, switching back and forth slow the pace to a near stall. Neither performance really stands out as grand compared to other foreign film performances this year, they are simply a product of their picture. A War is also not cinematically interesting, there are no great achievements in cinematography, sound or other technical qualities beyond that succinct editing in the final act.
An undistinguished foreign film nominee.