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This Movie Gets Right About War What Other Films Get Wrong
The Oscar-nominated Danish foreign film titled “A War” sweeps the viewer into its story as the opening scene follows a light infantry unit hit by an improvised explosive device while on patrol in southern Afghanistan.
Set at a small combat outpost, hinted to be near the former Camp Bastion in Helmand province, “A War” does what many recent military and war-related films fail to do: depict combat complexities and military life realistically.
Directed by Danish filmmaker Tobias Lindholm, “A War,” follows Capt. Claus Pedersen — the Dane’s company commander, played by Pilou Asbæk. Through the movie, Pedersen must manage his company, navigating dual responsibilities as a husband, father to three small children, and deployed soldier.
As with many complex situations during combat operations, Pedersen is presented with common and valid queries from soldiers, like “What’s the point of patrolling when you’re a moving target?” and “What are we doing here?” It highlights the struggles of communicating with the unit tactical operations center, the need for close air support when a unit is under enemy fire, and the decisions made in the tactical operations center by people who often have a limited view of what is happening on the ground.
Pedersen is faced with the responsibilities of ensuring safety for local Afghans and the soldiers in his charge. During the film, a hard, split-second decision made during a firefight has life-altering ramifications, which ultimately affects his family back home in Denmark.
“It was important to me to tell the story because it’s not only the soldiers that are sent away, it’s also the relative they leave behind that are directly affected by the decision to go to war and I didn’t want to forget that,” director Lindholm told Task & Purpose. “I wanted to remind everybody that the kids and the wives and the husbands of these soldiers are equally as affected by the decision, and we need to remember that before we start to exclude people from society when soldiers start to come back [home].”
In the current film era where the wars in the Middle East are often sensationalized, overblown, or show an implausible depiction of combat operations, it’s easy to see why “A War” is on par as a major contender for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
As Lindholm said, he and his team did everything they could to get it right.
In an effort to bring realism to the screen, he cast former Danish soldiers who deployed to Afghanistan. They acted as soldiers in the film, helped film scenes, and built sets depicting the combat outpost and nearby village in Turkey near the Syrian border, which had similar terrain to Afghanistan. Lindholm also cast Afghan refugees to act as locals and worked with military judge advocates and Danish military liaisons to ensure the lexicon, jargon, and complex combat situations were spot-on.
“I saw no reason to add drama. I wasn’t looking for the best drama, I was looking for a realistic picture of what has happened down there and in that finding the drama,” Lindholm said.
“It’s real human lives — both the Afghans and the soldiers and the families at home. It’s real human lives that I’m portraying so I have a responsibility to be truthful and real about it, not make it a romantic version where real people could feel their lives have been miscredited.”
Military and veteran viewers of any foreign coalition country will appreciate the authenticity depicted in seemingly minute details often overlooked in military dramas.
Everything was taken into account, from the authentic ranks and NATO patches on uniforms worn by the International Security Assistance Forces service members, to the handling of weapons, and the real-life events that drew from the lives of the wives and children back home.
Families in military dramas are often portrayed as blundering in a state of total disarray while their partner is deployed. “A War” highlights well the real, authentic, and complex day-to-day challenges of holding it all together despite the changes that affect a family. It accurately portrays how those relationships become more complex and change when a partner is gone.
“I was interested in the lives of soldiers not a political discussion where I was pro or against anything,” said Lindholm. “I just wanted to remind everybody that the Afghans are real. The soldiers are real, and this is not fiction happening in the news. These are actually real lives being lived by real human beings.”
The documentary-style film takes the fragile and complex decisions made in combat and life and shows its worth in that alone. After all, a real war story doesn’t require theatrics or unbelievable feats to convey the collective set of challenges combat veterans face when they return home.
“A War” is set to be released in theaters Feb. 12.
NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO — The prosecution rested its case against Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher on Tuesday after a week of testimony from members of SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon, medical and forensic experts, and NCIS agents.
The focus of Tuesday was on the investigative steps taken by the lead agent, Joseph Warpinski, 34, in addition to jurors being shown text messages sent by Gallagher to fellow SEALs with photos of a dead ISIS fighter that prosecutors characterized as "trophy shots."
Gallagher, 40, is accused of stabbing a wounded ISIS fighter and firing a sniper rifle at civilians in Iraq. He has pleaded not guilty.
Moments before Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia went back into the house, journalist Michael Ware said he was "pacing like a caged tiger ... almost like he was talking to himself."
"I distinctly remember while everybody else had taken cover temporarily, there out in the open on the street — still exposed to the fire from the roof — was David Bellavia," Ware told Task & Purpose on Monday. "David stopped pacing, he looked up and sees that the only person still there on the street is me. And I'm just standing there with my arms folded.
"He looked up from the pacing, stared straight into my eyes, and said 'Fuck it.' And I stared straight back at him and said 'Fuck it,'" Ware said. "And that's when I knew, we were both going back in that house."
Former Army Special Forces Maj. Matthew Golsteyn will plead not guilty to a charge of murder for allegedly shooting an unarmed Afghan man whom a tribal leader had identified as a Taliban bomb maker, his attorney said.
Golsteyn will be arraigned on Thursday morning at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Phillip Stackhouse told Task & Purpose.
No date has been set for his trial yet, said Lt. Col. Loren Bymer, a spokesman for U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
John Wick is back, and he's here to stay. It doesn't matter how many bad guys show up to try to collect on that bounty.
With John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, the titular hitman, played by 54-year-old Keanu Reeves, continues on a blood-soaked hyper-stylized odyssey of revenge: first for his slain dog, then his wrecked car, then his destroyed house, then ... well, honestly it's hard to keep track of exactly what Wick is avenging by this point, or the body count he's racked up in the process.
Though we do know that the franchise has raked in plenty of success at the box office: just a week after it's May 17 release, the third installment in director Chad Stahleski's series took in roughly $181 million, making it even more successful than its two wildly popular prequels 2014's John Wick, and 2017's John Wick: Chapter 2.
And, more importantly, Reeves' hitman is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest action movie heroes in recent memory. Few (if any) other action flicks have succeeded in creating a mind-blowing avant garde ballet out of a dozen well-dressed gunmen who get shot, choked, or stabbed with a pencil by a pissed off hitman who just wants to return to retirement.
But for all the over-the-top acrobatics, fight sequences, and gun-porn (see: the sommelier), what makes the series so enthralling, especially for the service members and vets in the audience, is that there are some refreshing moments of realism nestled under all of that gun fu. Wrack your brain and try to remember the last time you saw an action hero do a press check during a shootout, clear a jam, or actually, you know, reload, instead of just hip-firing 300 rounds from an M16 nonstop. It's cool, we'll wait.
As it turns out, there's a good reason for the caliber of gun-play in John Wick. One of the franchise's secret weapons is a professional three-gun shooter named Taran Butler, who told Task & Purpose he can draw and hit three targets in 0.67 seconds from 10 yards. And if you've watched any of the scores of videos he's uploaded to social media over the years, it's pretty clear that this isn't idle boasting.
The Navy's electromagnetic railgun is undergoing what officials described as "essentially a shakedown" of critical systems before finally installing a tactical demonstrator aboard a surface warship, the latest sign that the once-beleaguered supergun may actually end up seeing combat.
That pretty much means this is could be the last set of tests before actually slapping this bad boy onto a warship, for once.