A War | Directed By: Tobias Lindholm | Rating: 10/11 |
A War follows company commander Claus A. Pedersen (Pilou Asbaek) as he and his men attempt to protect an Afghan province from the constant threat of the Taliban. A harrowing opening scene immediately sets the danger that Pedersen and his men are in, and is easily one of the most grotesque scenes in the film. The film quickly shifts to Pedersen’s family back in Denmark, where his wife Maria (Tuva Novotny) tries to keep life as calm as possible for their three children. Their middle child struggles the most with his absence of his father, and as the film progresses, the struggle begins to take its toll on Maria.
It’s no wonder that A War is an Oscar nominee for the Best Foreign Language with its haunting depiction of the realities of war abroad and at home. The film blurs the lines between the heroics of a soldier and the bleak consequences that follow. Danish director Tobias Lindholm achieves a display of quiet desperation in A War as well as a simplicity that most American war films do not possess.
While A War’s first half feels a bit like a documentary, the second half shifts into a court room thriller. After a routine mission, Pedersen and his men are caught in a crossfire and he’s forced to make a difficult decision. What he does not realize is how this decision will impact him and his family once he returns home. The second half takes an interesting look at the difficulties soldiers are forced to face even after the battle ends, and how a war never truly is finished.
Asbaek’s quiet performance as Pedersen is impressive, but this is truly Novotny’s film. She plays Maria’s difficulties compassionately and begs her audience to consider being a bit more sympathetic to the family members who are left at home. Novotny may be the supporting player to Asbaek, but she never portrays Maria as “just his wife.” Just like her husband, she too is a victim of war.
There are no real heroes in A War, just as there are no real victors or heroes in a true war – instead victims of its horror. Unlike many war films, Lindholm chose not to glorify any aspect of his film but instead focused on the cold, harsh realities on and off of the battlefield. With it’s rather anti-American view of war, A War taking home the Oscar would be a well deserved win.