Following on from R and A Hijacking, it seems that the collaboration between auteur Tobias Lindholm and actor Pilou Asbæk is a rather prosperous one. Thankfully, the pair have reunited for a third time, with the remarkable drama A War, a film that has been long-listed for an Academy Award in the foreign language category, and would be distinctly unfortunate not to take the damn thing home.
Asbaek plays Claus Michael Pedersen, a commander who leads a team of soldiers in Afghanistan, vying to restore peace and order to the local community. While his wife Maria (Tuva Novotny) remains back at home, looking after their two children, while she prays for his safe return, he may be back a little sooner than anticipated, when he becomes embroiled in a legal matter concerning a crossfire that led to grave consequences. As the man in charge, during the attack Claus had to make an impulsive decision, but it’s one that could have grave consequences.
Asbaek turns in a remarkable performance as the lead, and is vitally empathetic – as we need to feel endeared to this character, because it’s that connection which serves us well in the latter stages when we question his decisions. It’s where A War is so effective, playing with our moral compass and creating an internal conflict, as the line between right and wrong becomes increasingly more blurred. What transpires is a film that sparks debate and makes us think. But the scenes featuring Maria back at home are equally as absorbing, and again helps in painting a broad picture of this man’s life; another factor in understanding who he is; and what the implications of his trial could have, not only on him, but on his wife and children. It’s essential too that Lindholm remains impartial, and that much is a given in this instance, when he appears almost as a voyeur of sorts, just peering in from the outside, leaving the camera to merely film.
Bearing similarities to Kubrick’s masterful drama Pathos of Glory, this is a hugely provocative feature that is worth seeking out. It’s pertinent too, and provides a substantial, nuanced take on the current war on terror, and does so in a crucially objective manner.