Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Movie Review: "A War"

In the fog of war in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, Danish commander Captain Claus Pedersen must choose between saving one of his men or a group of Afghan civilians. He saves his soldier. He then faces a criminal trial back in Denmark alleging that he violated the international humanitarian law principle of distinction by directing his soldiers to fire into a village without positively identifying the enemy.

So goes "A War," a 2015 Danish movie by Tobias Lindholm starring Pilou Asbaek (who will be familiar to "Game of Thrones" fans) as Captain Pedersen.

This reviewer enjoyed a special screening above the GMJR newsroom. The pace was uneven but the authenticity drew me in, with real Danish soldiers, Afghan refugees, and Danish judges playing most of the supporting roles.

The criminal trial was especially fun to watch. Two Danish judge advocates were involved in the investigation stage in Afghanistan before passing the baton to civilian court officials back home in Denmark. Before trial, the defense attorney advised his client that "ethics is not my strong suit" when goading him to untruthfully testify that he had positively identified the enemy in the village in order to secure an acquittal. The prosecutor impressively presented her case. There are a couple interesting twists with witness testimony from soldiers who were on the ground with Captain Pedersen.

Without spoiling the ending, the result of trial will come as no surprise to those familiar with the normal trajectory of domestic trials of war crimes.

Much like "The Deer Hunter," this is a war movie with no obvious heroes, but the humans involved are all too human.

"A War" ("Krigen" in Danish) is available online for free for U.S. Netflix subscribers. Watch the trailer here

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