War, A (Krigen) (2015)

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Released 8-Feb-2017

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Drama Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Madman Propaganda x 4
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2015
Running Time 110:31
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Tobias Lindholm
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Pilou Asbaek
Tuva Novotny
Dar Salim
Dulfi Al-Jabouri
Christian Pedersen
Soren Malling



Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Sune Wagner


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Danish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Danish Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     The war in Afghanistan has resulted in some compelling documentaries where cameras were imbedded with front-line US soldiers such as Restrepo and Korengal, both of which I reviewed on this site. A War (Krigen) is a film about Danish soldiers on deployment in Helmand Province Afghanistan; it is not a documentary but it could be considered a companion piece to Armadillo (which I also reviewed on this site), a Danish documentary shot in 2009 on the front line in Helmand Province. A War is filmed documentary style and it contains intense quasi-combat footage but it also covers the impact of decisions made in combat by a company commander upon himself and his family back in Denmark.

     Claus Pedersen (Pilou Asbaek) is a respected and compassionate company commander, leading his men from the front as they face an unseen enemy while losing comrades to IEDs. Back in Denmark his wife Maria (Tuva Novotny) is struggling to bring up their three young children who are missing their father, especially the middle child who has become disobedient at home and disruptive at school. Claus is able to speak to his wife and children most nights via cell-phone although this only brings home just how far away his family is. In the company Claus has the support of his second in command and close friend Najib (Dar Salim); other soldiers we notice in the squad include “Lasse” (Dulfi Al-Jabouri) and radio operator “Butcher” (Christian Pedersen).

     The soldiers’ mission in Afghanistan is to help the local villagers and they have very strict rules of engagement to restrict civilian casualties. In one village while on patrol the soldiers dress the wound of a young girl who has been badly burned. A few days later the girl’s father brings his family to the Danish compound; because he had accepted first aid from the Danes he says that the Taliban will kill him and his family and he begs to be allowed to stay at the post. Claus cannot allow that and he sends the man and his family back to their village, promising to come to the village the next morning. When Claus and his men arrive they find the bodies of the man and all his family, the village otherwise deserted. They then come under heavy attack including rocket and grenade fire and Lasse is critically wounded in the neck and must be evacuated immediately if he is to survive. The medivac helicopter is unable to land due to the intense firing on the ground; Claus suspects that most of the fire is coming from a particular compound and calls in an airstrike, after which the helicopter lands and Lasse is evacuated.

     Some days later evidence emerges that eleven civilians, including children, had been killed in that airstrike and Claus is relieved of command and sent back to Denmark to face trial. The central question for the court is whether the compound was a military or civilian target under the rules of engagement. Claus is a moral man, distressed by the deaths. Although pressed by Maria and facing four years in gaol if found guilty he cannot lie to say unequivocally that he saw the enemy in the compound before he called in the airstrike.

     A War is an impressive film about the ethics and actuality of war. The writer / director is Tobias Lindholm some of whose previous films, such as The Hunt and A Hijacking (both 2102), I reviewed on this site and enjoyed very much. The combat footage in A War is very reminiscent of the genuine footage in Restrepo or Armadillo; it is visceral and immediate, using hand held wavering cameras in the midst of the fighting and explosions. Indeed the camera throughout the fighting remains up close on the soldiers; there are no wide shots and no vision of the enemy fighters as we remain with the soldiers as the bullets impact and grenades and rockets explode showering them with debris. It feels real and there is no music, only the shouts of the soldiers and the impacts of ordinance and crash of debris. Nor do we see the air strike, although we very much hear it.

     The scenes in Denmark at the Pedersen home and the court still have a documentary look as they use handheld cameras, natural light and a muted colour scheme. Pilou Asbaek has been busy lately: he was Euron Greyjoy in Game of Thrones, Pilate in Ben-Hur (2016), he turned up in The Great Wall and is Batou in the live action Ghost in the Shell (2017) film. In A War he is very good as the commander faced with life and death decisions in extreme circumstances and he is equally impressive as the moral man facing judgment for his decisions. His scenes with Novotny, who is also very good, are moving and genuine.

     A War was nominated for Best Foreign Language film at the 2016 Oscars, although it lost out to Son of Saul from Hungary. I have not seen that film so cannot make any comparison. However, I will say that A War is a well-made, well-acted emotional and harrowing film that pulls no punches. For despite all the rules of engagement and the best intentions, there are innocent casualties in any war. And not all of those casualties are in the combat zone.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     A War is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.

     Hand held documentary style quasi-combat footage was never going to be pristine so we have the usual softness caused by sudden pans, jump cuts, focus changes, debris flying about. Nor do I really want to see in full detail bloodied soldiers with limbs blown off! The Afghanistan scenes have a yellowish palate, the Danish sections a blue / grey look. Otherwise detail is fine, blacks and shadow detail good, skin tones natural, contrast and brightness consistent. I noticed no marks or artefacts, although the opening and end white titles could have been firmer.

    The layer change at 58:55 resulted in a slight pause just after a scene change.

    The English subtitles are in a clear white font. I noticed a couple of minor errors, but nothing serious.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio is a choice of Danish Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps or Danish Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224 Kbps.

     The 5.1 is very impressive. Dialogue is easy to hear even during intense combat. Outside the action scenes the rears and surrounds featured ambient sounds, such as insects and voices. Once in combat everything was loud and enveloping with soldiers’ yells and radio calls, explosions, bullets, engines and debris putting one right into the action. There was no music used in the Afghanistan sections, adding to the realistic feel. The subwoofer added boom to the explosions and medivac helicopter engines. In the scenes in Denmark the score by Sune Wagner was used sparingly.

     Lip synchronisation seemed fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Theatrical Trailer (2:23)

Madman Propaganda

    Trailers for A Hijacking (2:16), The Idealist (2:32), A Perfect Day (1:55) and Armadillo (1:57).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region A US Blu-ray adds an English dub as well as a small range of extras, the most substantial being an interview with the director Tobias Lindholm (16:30), a short behind the scenes (5:04) and an interview with a US Colonel (1:03). I cannot find out if the Region 1 DVD has the extras or not, although it does seem to include the English language dub. The Region 2 UK PAL release of A War looks to be the same as our version.

Summary

     A War is a reminder that other nations as well as Australia and the US had troops on the ground in Afghanistan. I think (although I may be wrong) that Afghanistan was the first time Danish soldiers had been deployed in a war zone since WW2 and this seems to have made a substantial impact upon that society as no smaller nation in that conflict has examined the conflict itself, its morality and the aftereffects, anything like Armadillo and A War. A War is fiction and features a compelling performance by Pilou Asbaek and intense combat footage; both films, Armadillo and A War, fiction and non-fiction, are intelligent films about the war in Afghanistan which deserve to be seen.

     The video is as the filmmakers intended, the audio loud and enveloping. A trailer and trailers for other films are the only extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, April 06, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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