A WAR (KRIGEN) (Tobias Lindholm, 2015)
Landmark Sunshine Cinema
143 East Houston St. between First & Second Aves.
Opens Friday, February 12
Danish writer-director Tobias Lindholm puts you right in the middle of the action in The War, his searing portrait of the modern state of battle as seen through the eyes of a dedicated family man who makes a decision in the heat of the moment that jeopardizes his future. The first part of the film takes place in Afghanistan, where the Danish army, which has not been involved in its own war in more than 150 years, is supporting the efforts of the United States and England. A small company, led by Claus Michael Pedersen (Pilou Asbæk), is protecting a desert area where the Taliban is believed to be infiltrating a nearby village. Lindholm and cinematographer Magnus Nordenhof Jønck, who have previously worked together on R and A Hijacking, make the audience feel like it’s right there as a soldier is blown up by an IED, the men encounter an Afghan family that might or might not be collaborating with the Taliban, and a terrorist uses children as a human shield. The story occasionally shifts back home, where Pedersen’s wife, Maria (Tuva Novotny), is caring for their three children by herself. The two worlds come crashing together after Pedersen makes a judgment call while trying to rescue Lutfi “Lasse” Hassan (Dulfi Al-Jabouri), who’s been shot by a sniper as their compound is under attack. It’s all far more subtle, and more believable, than, say, the opening of Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan or Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper; it’s not so much about the horrors, violence, and heroism of war in general but its potential after-effects in an ever-more-complex politically correct climate.
Lindholm was determined to make the film as realistic as possible, and he succeeds marvelously. In crafting and casting A War, he met with refugees, Afghanistan veterans, and members of the Taliban to get things right. (Most of the cast are nonprofessional actors, including many actual Danish soldiers.) Asbæk, who has starred in Lindholm’s previous two films as well as the popular Danish television series Borgen (and will play Euron Greyjoy in the sixth season of Game of Thrones), is superb as the conflicted soldier and father who faces a crisis of conscience as he gets caught up in a tangled web that has major ramifications; at times his eyes seem almost vacant as he wonders just what it is all about. Nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language film — Lindholm also cowrote Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt, which was up for the same award two years ago — A War features fine performances by Novotny (Nobel, Jalla! Jalla!), Dar Salim (A Hijacking, Submarino, another collaboration between Lindholm and Vinterberg) as Najib Bisma, Pedersen’s trusted right-hand man, and Søren Malling (A Hijacking, Borgen) as lawyer Martin R. Olsen. A War is a poignant, insightful look at one man’s experience of war — and how it relates to all of us. The film opens February 12 at the Landmark Sunshine; the 7:00 screenings on Friday and Saturday nights will be followed by a Q&A with Lindholm.