A War, review: ‘Moving and subtle’

PUBLISHED: 14:00 10 January 2016

A War. Picture: Nordisk Film Distribution

A War. Picture: Nordisk Film Distribution


This unusual perspective on the war in Afghanistan is handled with care by director Tobias Lindholm, says Michael Joyce.

Director: Tobias LindholmStarring: Pilou Asbæk, Tuva Novotny, Dar Salim, Søren Malling and Charlotte Munck. Danish with subtitles.Film Length: 115 mins

The war is familiar but the platoon is not. We’re back patrolling the dusty wastes of Afghanistan but the troops trying to evade IEDs and the Taliban are from Denmark. Scandinavian soldiers are a very different proposition to the psychotics who have been marauding around foreign fields in American war films since ‘nam. They are calm and organised; when a soldier breaks down in front of his commanding officer, Claus (Asbæk), he is treated with compassion; after an operational setback they sit down together and talk through their feelings. Even the one nicknamed Butcher is a well balanced, decent individual.

Despite their reasonableness, they don’t seem to be any more effective at winning over hearts and minds than the Stars and Stripes goon squad that is presumably in some other film over the ridge. They get killed, they kill and they get people killed. For over an hour this is a tour of duty story. We follow Claus leading his squad in Afghanistan and see his wife (Novotny) back at home trying to deal with three young children, the oldest of which is beginning to act out at school. Lindholm (screenwriter The Hunt, director A Hijacking) doesn’t film war as though it is an opportunity to show off his directing skills. His style is quiet and unobtrusive, with lots of hand-held camera. So when in the second half he slips the knife in, leaving Claus to twist on a hideous moral dilemma, you really feel it - especially because he has made you so attached to these people that your judgment has been subtly but very effectively clouded.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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