starring Aleksei Chadov, Ian Kelly, Sergei Bodrov Jr., Ingeborga Dapkunaite
written and directed by Aleksei Balabanov
by Walter Chaw War is a peculiar low-budget version of Proof of Life that opens like that episode of "The Twilight Zone" about dolls come to life in a Beckett-ian toy box before it falls into some all-too-familiar patterns of folks getting kidnapped for ransom in Chechnya as foreign governments remain powerless (or disinclined) to get them back. Pitched with feverish earnestness, The War is high melodrama told without much in the way of moderation nor ultimately interest, its story proper that of a British man (Ian Kelly) and a Russian man (Aleksei Chadov)--ex-prisoners, both, of a terrorist cell--taking matters into their own hands against their former captors. The film is marred by an egregious over-simplicity and enough narrative gimmickry to choke a horse: the Brit keeps a video diary while the Russkie is involved in one of those flashback framing stories that ensures his safety, thus providing the filmmakers even more padding to what probably would have been better off as a 30-minute short. Footage of the borderlands between Russia and Chechnya is occasionally breathtaking, but that in itself does little to forgive the jarring guitar-heavy score and the bald inevitability of the entire exercise. Unconvincing and oddly dated given the topicality of its subject, War is a flat, overlong picture that lacks much in the way of insight on the one hand and excitement on the other.
You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.