3 March 2017



This Danish offering is an excellent modern war film, but please don't be put off by the genre. I myself found modern warfare confusing until I learned a little bit about it, and now I just find it fascinating.

This is in fact a story of two halves, anyway, with only the first half being about soldiers at war in the present times and the second half evolving into a tense and moving courtroom drama. Let's zoom in for a closer look, movie fans...

Claus Michael Pedersen is the handsome, bearded commander of a company of Danish soldiers based in Afghanistan. Their job there is to protect the local civilians from the Taliban. It's a tough, dangerous, often frightening job. I think you'd have to be a remarkable type of man (or woman) to be able to endure a tour of duty in a place so alien and far from home.

At the start of the film, we see one of Claus's men die gruesomely after stepping on a landmine while out on patrol, an occupational hazard the soldiers risk every day. Claus and his men are badly affected by their buddy's premature death.

We see Claus being extremely kind and understanding to a young soldier called Lasse who takes the incident particularly badly. We can tell straightaway that Claus is a kind and decent man and a good commander of men.

While Claus is patrolling a dangerous area of Afghanistan, a country with a bleak, desolate and often unforgiving terrain, we see his attractive wife Maria back home in Denmark trying to care for their three young children alone.

Their son Julius is taking his father's absence harder than the other two kids, his older sister Figne and his adorable baby brother Elliot. He's getting in trouble at school. Claus is able to phone home frequently enough but it's not the same as really being there with his family. He and Maria reach out to each other across the airwaves, both lonely, each desperately missing and needing the other.

Then one day, an incident occurs that threatens to tear the little family apart for much longer than the three months Claus has left of his tour of duty in Afghanistan. While out on patrol, the soldier known as Lasse is shot during an ambush. Claus makes a judgement call and orders an airstrike on a nearby compound.

Unfortunately, it was a poor call as several civilians, including children, are killed in the airstrike. A horrified Claus is pulled off the job and packed off back home to his family to await court proceedings against him. If things don't go his way, he could go to jail for up to four years, and where would his wife and family be then...?

If it were me in that situation and Claus were my husband, I'd probably prefer to see him behind bars where I knew he'd be safe than back in Afghanistan, where every day he was risking death or disfigurement through stepping on a landmine or being caught in enemy fire.

Maria, however, is adamant that she doesn't want her hubby going to jail. She's had a gutful of minding the nippers on her own. Being a single parent is hard. She begs Claus to pretend that he thought the enemy was inside the compound he ordered hit. That way, he can't be blamed for what happened. 

But Claus knows full well that he didn't really know who was inside the compound. He basically just wanted to create a diversion so that he could get the injured soldier and the rest of his men to safety. He's responsible for their welfare and well-being, after all. But what will the court of law decide...?

There's a moral dilemma at the heart of the film that everyone who watches it will probably have different opinions on. The prosecutor, a woman who looks a lot like she could be Claus's wife's older sister, does a brilliantly understated job of putting the case to the court that soldiers aren't above the law, even while we may allow them a certain amount of leeway in life-and-death situations. The courtroom scenes are intensely gripping and the prosecutor and defender are both terrific actors.

This film is so beautifully acted it actually feels like we're watching real stuff that's really happening, almost as if it were a fly-on-the-wall documentary. Also, the soldiers, with the exception of the main characters, are real Danish soldiers who've served in Afghanistan. This adds a gritty authenticity to the film that no amount of fiddling about in the cutting-room could have achieved. It's quite simply the perfect watch.

This magnificent anti-war film is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray courtesy of STUDIOCANAL. 

I haven't seen much Danish cinema in the past but, if films were confectionery, A WAR would be one hell of a gooey, sticky and undeniably delicious Danish pastry...


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


 You can contact Sandra at:


No comments:

Post a comment