Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, writer-director Tobias Lindholm has delivered a mixed bag war drama.
The first half is actually quite good as Claus (Pilou Asbaek), a soldier from Denmark stationed in Afghanistan tries to lead a tired troop on patrols while his wife Maria (Tuva Novotny) holds things together back home. Life takes a bad turn for Claus when he inadvertently kills civilians during battle and is returned home to face charges. Lindholm’s film then becomes a courtroom drama with very little mystery and tension. The second half of the movie doesn’t feel like it belongs to the first.
The film actually works best when showing Maria dealing with a child who is acting up in the absence of his father. In this respect, it’s actually quite memorable as an examination of families whose loved ones have gone off to war.
Once the courtroom drama kicks in, Maria takes a backseat to standard cinematic legal drama. It’s too bad, and it’s also surprising that this film got the Oscar nod over such great movies as the horror show Goodnight, Mommy from Germany and the haunting Rams from Iceland.
Those films were far more fully realized. A War isn’t a bad movie. It has some solid performances (especially from Novotny) and a first half that resonates. As for everything that takes place in the courtroom, it’s unnecessary and, quite frankly, boring.