Thursday 19 April 2018


A War Cert: 15A

Firefight: Pilou Asbaek stars as a Danish commander on tour of duty in Afghanistan
Firefight: Pilou Asbaek stars as a Danish commander on tour of duty in Afghanistan

Tobias Lindholm showed with A Hijacking (2012) that the Danish film maker was deft at depicting both the immediate and far-reaching consequences of a crisis situation. That cool Scandinavian temperament is at work again in A War, a taut drama that feels genetically linked to A Hijacking, and not just in the understatement of its title.

For starters, Pilou Asbaek also stars in this morality tale. He plays Commander Claus Pederson, leading a band of troops patrolling a remote rocky region of Taliban-ravaged Afghanistan. From the get-go, the environment hides lethal dangers in the form of mines and localised insurgency. Lindholm's camera hovers over the troops' shoulders, negotiating the glaring sun and uneven footing in kind.

Making matters even more tense are regular retreats back to Claus's family in Denmark where his wife Maria (Tuva Novotny) and three children long for his safe return. This ratchets up the stakes, and when a gun battle breaks out and Claus takes drastic measures, you find yourself siding with him under the heated circumstances.

The action, however, leads to civilian casualties and the second half of A War morphs into a courtroom drama as Claus is tried back in Denmark. A struggle to balance a duty to his family with that of the victims swells within him.

With precision, Lindholm presents three elements that make A War stand out from the crowd - an uncluttered plot, a complex philosophical argument and a clear-headed, almost documentarian tone.

Asbaek - who is about to be seen in the new season of Game of Thrones - exercises a brand of smouldering restraint in keeping with Lindholm's general aesthetic. Around him, he is ably supported by Novotny and a cast containing real-life Danish soldiers with experience of Afghanistan. LLLL


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