A must-see for those not afraid of seeing and hearing a true statement of the horrors of war.
Director Janus Metz Pedersen has a tiger by the tail in what will eventually be acknowledged as the most controversial war movie in decades. It may be the most controversial war film of all time.
Director Pederson and his cinematographer Lars Skree had no way of knowing what would develop when they joined the army, put on a uniform and imbedded themselves into a unit of the 170 member International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). ISAF is responsible for providing security for the civilians located in a no man’s land of inter-tribal warfare at firebase Armadillo.
The first half of the film is much like the recently released hyper-reality warfare documentary “Restrepo.” Both Pederson and Skree do the heavy lifting that includes keeping the cameras rolling with bullets passing inches away.
They photograph the young soldiers as they enter the camp full of enthusiasm, feeling indestructible. At the end of the film they photograph the soldiers looking at themselves in the mirror and asking themselves what they have done.
In a special screening in New York April 13, 2011, Pederson provided some remarkable insight into a film that took on a life of its own after the young soldiers committed what some might view as war crimes. There is no point in going into detail about that issue in this review. You have to see the film if you are interested. However, the soldiers describe killing of wounded enemy soldiers in detail and they do so more than once.
The most amazing thing about the story is that the military allowed it to be released at all. An American journalist with combat journalist experience stated that the US military would have quashed the entire story outright. Director Pederson stated the brass could not do that in this case because the story was too hot keep secret.
They had to release it or risk their entire careers if the story was uncovered. They had the right of review and some leverage with censorship but they chose to take the lumps now rather than risking immolation later if a cover up was attempted and failed. This is a considerable decision in the case of a film that could well depict outright war crimes.
Pederson describes the “dark energies’ released by the trauma of war. There is a blood lust amplified by a sort of mob mentality that disperses personal responsibility and allows lethal action to ensue. This is what this film is all about and it is far more troubling and far more psychologically probing than “Restrepo.”
It is actually a real life version of Brian De Palma’s “Redacted,” the narrative fictional reenactment of the rape and murder of a family committed by US soldiers in the Gulf War.
At the end of the film, when the soldiers viewed on screen what they had wrought they had mixed feelings. Most were quite aware that interpretations leading to accusations of murder rather than combat would be forthcoming.
Even so, many thought it was a fair depiction of war the way they saw it. War is not nice and it is not fought according to rules in spite of what the public may be told or may want to believe.
On the other hand, Person admits he now has “many new enemies in the military.” One would expect that the high-ranking brass, especially, are not at all happy with this film coming out.
Overall, the movie is expertly filmed. The shots taken in camp were done with larger, heavier and more powerful cameras than those taken with portable cameras in combat. The result is an unusually high level of production quality throughout.
When this excellence is combined with the sharply focused wake-up call this film will deliver to the public the result is a story of earthshaking importance. It is reported the most covered film in Denmark and one of the highest box office earners ever.
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Directed by: Janus Metz Pedersen
Written by: Kasper Torsting
Release Date: April 15, 2011
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for thematic material, violence, terror and frightening images, and brief strong language
Runtime: 100 minutes