Coming to theaters this Friday from writer/director Tobias Lindholm and Magnolia Pictures is a riveting look at the decisions made during “A War.”
In an Afghan province, Company Commander Claus M. Pedersen (Pilou Asbaek) takes his position seriously. Keeping in touch with home and wife Maria (Tuva Novotny), he is constantly reminded that home is a few months away. When one of his men sees a fellow soldier killed, Pedersen takes pity and takes his place as the squad looks for the enemy.
As a local villager asks for help to stay inside the military compound, Commander Pedersen assures the family they will be safe in their home telling fellow soldier Najib Bisma (Dar Salim) of his plan. Promising the squad will return the next morning, horror awaits them.
Surrounded by gunfire and explosions, Pedersen calls for the bombing of the village as they become trapped behind a wall. When the fight is over, Pedersen is suddenly arrested for the death of villagers because of his orders.
Returning home, Pedersen and lawyer Martin Olsen (Soren Malling) face a trial that calls into question what really happened during the firefight and who is responsible.
This is war.
Asbaek as Pedersen is a soldier who clearly struggles with doing his job and still maintaining his humanity. Caring for the men under his command, each decision made is one that could potentially hurt the civilians or hurt the men he is sworn to protect. Asbaek isn’t a new face as my first introduction came in 2010 when he played the seriously unpredictable Kasper Juul in the Danish series “Borgen.”
This is also the fourth time Asbaek has worked with writer/director Tobias Lindholm. That makes sense as Lindholm was responsible for several episodes of “Borgen” as well as the 2012 films “A Hijacking” and one of my favorite films — “The Hunt” with heart stopper Mads Mikkelsen.
Novotny as Maria is a woman taking care of three children while her husband is in the middle of a war. Trying to keep the home front together, especially with one child acting out, Novotny portrays a wife and mother with strength and courage.
Malling as Olsen is also a “Borgen” alum playing Torben Friis in 2010-13. It is a pleasure to see these two actors together again playing such different roles and enjoying every moment.
Salim as Bisma is a soldier who wants to help his friend but, at the same time, must tell the truth about the firefight. Salim has also worked with Asbaek and Lindholm before in the film “A Hijacking.”
Other cast include: Charlotte Munck as Lisbeth Danning, Alex Andersen as Anders, Dulfi Al-Jabouri as Lutfi Hassan, Jakob Frolund as Terkel Sand and Philip Sem Dambaek as Brian Brask.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give “A War” four tubs of popcorn out of five. This is a chaotic look at the life and death decisions a person in Pedersen’s position must make. There is nothing perfect about war and to see what these men are presented with, it becomes clear that the struggles with those decisions can be life altering.
The cast are engrained in these characters as the moral dilemma shows on each of their faces. Watching the testimonies it is so clear that although something terrible had happened and their Commander was sitting across from them in pain, how does one reconcile the decisions of a soldier and the life of a civilian when they reside in the same person.
These are questions that will never be easy to answer and perhaps there isn’t one. War and chaos change the decisions we all would make under those circumstances muddling the line of what is right and what is necessary. Not that it needed any more realism but Lindholm brought in Danish soldiers, Taliban warriors, relatives and refugees for the film.
“A War” has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
In the end — it is war.