War is very simple in theory. Actions during conflict are governed by a huge book of rules, regulations and scenarios. All well and good on the training ground but in the heat of battle the rulebook can sometimes be thrown out of the window. There’s always a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ decisions but the correct choice doesn’t necessarily produce the best outcome. In Tobias Lindholm’s film, A War, the lives of many people rest on a split-second decision.
Commander Claus Michael Pedersen (Pilou Asbæk) and his company are stationed in Afghanistan. The men are becoming progressively more agitated after coming under attack again on patrol. Meanwhile, back in Denmark, Claus’ wife Maria (Tuva Novotny) is finding it increasingly difficult raising their three children alone whilst he’s on the other side of the world. When the company is pinned down in a compound by the Taliban he has to make a snap decision which will effect both their lives.
It’s not surprising that A War was nominated for an Oscar (for Best Film in a Foreign Language) as it’s a film which looks at the conflict in Afghanistan from several different angles. The casualties of war don’t just litter the arenas of conflict but there’s often scant regard paid to the families of those putting their lives at risk on a daily basis. A War is a claustrophobic and powerful film about the price of war. About life and death decisions on the frontline and sterile bureaucracy sat comfortably back at home.