Tobias Lindholm's A War is the story of company commander Claus M. Pedersen, who heads up a unit stationed in Afghanistan. During a routine mission, one of the youngest men of the company is killed, leaving the moral of the soldiers in shambles, with many of these men struggling to keep their heads on straight in such chaotic circumstances. In an effort to regain stability of his unit, Pedersen opts to accompany his men on some of these patrols, effectively boosting the moral of his men through effective leadership. On one such routine patrol, Pedersen and his men find themselves caught in a heavy crossfire and in order save the lives of him and his men, Pedersen orders for an airstrike on a compound, one in which he isn't 100% sure is hostile. This decision, one which was made under extremely intense circumstances, has grave consequences for Pedersen and his family back home when it's revealed the combine was at least, in part, occupied by innocent civilians. Tobias Lindholm's A War is a powerful story of the murkiness of war, being a film that manages to be both a dynamic action drama and an important examination of the true horrors of war. With the first half of the film splitting time between Afghanistan and Pedersen's family back home in Denmark, A War paints an effective portrait of the far reaching nature of War, examining not only the men who serve and the effect it has on their psyches, but also that of their families back home - the wives, sons, daughters, mothers, etc, who each struggle on a daily basis, not only worrying about the safety of their loved ones but also missing the support they provide. While Pedersen is without question the central character of this film, A War still makes sure to give its supporting roles dimension and depth, offering up screen time to the various members of Pedersen's unit, many of which are struggling with issues of fear, homesickness, and emotional solitude. While this evocation of the life of a soldier and the emotional toll it can create is the main focus of the first half of the film, A War really soars in the back-half, when Pedersen finds himself facing potential war crimes. From the viewers perspective it's known that Pedersen did not have the full confirmation necessary to order that airstrike, and in terms of military law he should face the consequences, but what A War manages to do so beautifully is remind the viewer just how unfair it's to expect men in chaos to act by these laws written by bureaucrats in desk-chairs. A War captures how these rules of engagement, while necessary, completely ignore human error under extraneous circumstances, offering up a straight-forward, easily definable code for a situation that is everything but. The chaotic nature of conflict makes these type of decisions much more difficult to define, and it's quite frankly laughable for us as bystanders to pretend that we have any idea the circumstances of these decisions, and pretend we would act any differently. We, as a society, pretend that training is enough to prepare men for these types of decisions but that simply is naive, as in times of extreme chaos and potential death, the primal desire to survive takes over, regardless of training, becoming the number one priority. That isn't to say that A War completely absolves Pedersen from his decisonmaking that day, which led to the death of innocent civilians, it simply acknowledges that there are never easily definable answers under such chaotic circumstances of War, something which I think many people, regardless of politics, need to comprehend. With that in mind, A War ends on powerful note, as Pedersen finds himself acquitted of war crimes but is unquestionable faced with the torment of continuing to live with what he did. The final shot, a dark silhoutte of Pedersen alone on his patio beautiful captures this, visually expressing a character who is forced ruminate over the lives he inadvertently took. Featuring intense action, fast-pacing, and important ruminations on effective decision-making under the extreme circumstances of wartime, A War is multi-layered examination of the far-reaching aspects of War and military conflict, offering no easy answers when it comes to lives and deaths of human-beings.
Love of all things cinema brought me here.