Flick Pick: A War

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The category for best foreign film at the 2016 Academy Awards is  strong. A lot of early buzz surrounds such nominees as the Hungarian Holocaust drama Son of Saul and the French coming-of-age tale Mustang. But in our opinion, Danish director Tobias Lindholm’s comparatively overlooked film A War deserves serious consideration.

An in-depth look at the choices a soldier makes under extreme circumstances, and the consequences of those decisions, this drama explores the politics of war: What is right, what is wrong, and whose lives come first.

AWarThe movie immediately throws us into a dangerous Afghan province. A young soldier steps on an active IED, and the handheld camera jerks around as other soldiers frantically fight to save him. From their base, company commander Claus M. Pedersen, impeccably portrayed in a heartbreaking performance by Pilou Asbæk, shouts instructions to his troops and is visibly shaken when the young victim is pronounced dead.

Pedersen starts to join his men on all routine missions, no matter how dangerous or exhausting. While out on patrol one day, they stop to help a girl who has severe burns on her arm. When they return to check on her family, Pedersen and his men find them executed and are themselves ambushed by Taliban gunfire. One of the soldiers is shot. In order to save his life and get all of his men out alive, Pedersen makes a hasty decision that leads to the deaths of 11 innocent locals—including eight children.

AWarTrial4InsetMeanwhile, Pedersen’s wife, Maria (Tuva Novotny), has her hands full back in Denmark, taking care of the couple’s three young kids. The highlight of their day is when Dad can call home to talk. Although she keeps up a brave face, Maria is barely keeping it together. In one memorable scene, she holds back tears as she comforts her youngest son, who has to have his stomach pumped after accidentally swallowing several pills.

Following the attack, Pedersen is sent home and must face trial. The question is, did he have grounds for authorizing a bombing that killed civilians? AWarInsetDid he or his men have a visual on the Taliban, or did he make the call in a desperate attempt to save his fellow soldiers? The courtroom scenes make it clear that A War is much more than just another war movie. It’s about the humanity of the people who fight. Pedersen is a good man, a good father and a good soldier, yet was he in the wrong? And if so, does he deserve to go to prison for it, keeping him away from his family for another four years?

Check out the trailer below, and make sure to see A War during its limited release beginning Friday, February 12.

Photos courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

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