A War

A WAR, drama, not rated, in Dan­ish with sub­ti­tles, The Screen, 3.5 chiles

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - Jonathan Richards

Dan­ish di­rec­tor To­bias Lind­holm fa­vors a thought­ful, low-key sim­plic­ity in his ti­tles and in his sto­ries. His ear­lier film, A Hi­jack­ing, an ex­cel­lent drama about a Dan­ish cargo ship taken by So­mali pi­rates, got swamped by the Tom Hanks ver­sion, Cap­tain Phillips. This one cov­ers some of the ter­ri­tory ex­plored in Restrepo and Amer­i­can Sniper.

What’s ar­rest­ing about A War for Amer­i­can au­di­ences is the no­tion that young men of other coun­tries are fight­ing and dy­ing in Afghanistan, with no clearer un­der­stand­ing than we have of why. Lind­holm bal­ances his movie be­tween scenes on the war front in a com­pany of Dan­ish peace­keep­ing troops in Afghanistan, and on the home front in Den­mark.

Claus Ped­er­sen (Pilou As­bæk, the cook in A Hi­jack­ing) is the com­pany’s com­man­der. He’s a good sol­dier and a good man, moral and car­ing. When his men are shaken by the killing of one of their com­rades, he steps out of com­mand HQ to per­son­ally lead them on pa­trol. Back home, his wife, Maria (Tuva Novotny), has crises of her own, strug­gling to raise their three young chil­dren with an ab­sen­tee father.

Lind­holm scat­ters en­coun­ters with moral­ity through­out the movie, both on the part of the Danes and their Tal­iban foes, but the turn­ing point of the story comes when one of Claus’ men is des­per­ately wounded dur­ing the ter­ri­fy­ing con­fu­sion of a fire­fight, and he must make a quick bat­tle­field de­ci­sion that could save the man’s life. That de­ci­sion will come back to haunt him, and the last part of the film deals with his re­call to Den­mark for a court mar­tial.

The is­sues and ironies of­fered for our con­sid­er­a­tion by this Os­carnom­i­nated film are chal­leng­ing, but the main ques­tion it poses is this: Who is to blame when things go wrong in war? Is it the young men and women on the front line, deal­ing in life-and- death mo­ments of hor­ror and con­fu­sion? Or is it the sages who send them there, not al­ways with full dis­clo­sure of the rea­sons for do­ing so? Or is it ev­ery­body?

In the court­room, Lind­holm pits an ide­al­is­tic young pros­e­cu­tor against a wily de­fense lawyer. The is­sue for Claus is whether to be true to him­self and take the con­se­quences, or to com­pro­mise his prin­ci­ples for the sake of his fam­ily. It’s a trou­bling dilemma, and one that makes us ask who wins and who loses, and how firm is our stand­ing to judge the ac­tions of the peo­ple we send to war.

Sol­dier of for­tune: Pilou As­bæk

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