Director Tobias Lindholm had me going for a while. Then his screenplay suddenly deserted him. Is it good to give the people what they want? Sometimes, I think. Other times no. I couldn’t help but surmise that the wrong choice was put into play here. There’s a stab at ambiguity, that wasn’t quite enough for me, by the finale. But, “A War” (“Krigen” in Denmark, its country of origin, from which it was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, at the 88th Annual Academy Awards), starts with a riveting 90 minutes, before stacking the deck in the final half hour. I still recommend it, for its compelling morality play. Btw, the language is Danish, and it employs English subtitles. Plus, I’ve read that outside of the main characters, the soldiers used are actual ones. Nice touch.
Commander Claus M. Pederson (the quite good, Pilou Asbaek), is stationed in Afghanistan, where he and his men are driving out the Taliban from local villages. There are tense battles. During one a man dies, and during another, one is severely injured. It’s the latter one that eventually comes back to haunt Claus. Interspersed with this, are scenes involving his wife, Maria (very solid, Tuva Novotny), as she struggles back home in Denmark, raising their three young children. Back in Afghanistan, a village family pleads to be kept safe, after a soldier treats a youngster’s burned arm. Commander Pederson turns them away from the military compound, with a promise that they will address their concerns in the village the next day. But the unit finds the entire family slaughtered 24 hours later. Soon engaged in a firefight with the brutal regime responsible, Pederson makes a fateful decision, in order to save a soldier’s life.
The 2nd half of “A War” is a domestic and courtroom drama, and it has some trouble maintaining its steam during the latter portions. It doesn’t flounder completely, just a bit. It was easier to admire the first half much more, with its tense combat scenes, and affecting troop camaraderie. There is some nice interplay between Pederson and a mentally crumbling soldier. When there are war scenes, “A War” becomes a cross between “The Hurt Locker” and “American Sniper”. That should read as highly complimentary. I was riveted throughout most of the film, but it does get trapped in a difficult plot line corner, at a critical point. With a bit of adjustment, it could’ve been great. It’s still very good.