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Review: Battlefield decision has repercussions in ‘War’

Tom Long
The Detroit News
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Ethically challenging and occasionally brutal, “A War” explores the dicey nature of decisions made in the heat of battle and the grim consequences that may follow.

It is a compelling, startlingly real story of judgment, family and inner and outer turmoil, and it’s no surprise that it’s up for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar on Sunday night.

The movie’s focus is Claus (Pilou Asbaek), a Danish army company commander stationed in a remote Afghan province. When one of his men is killed by a land mine, Claus — who has the option and perhaps responsibility to stay safe in camp — decides to rally the troops by going on patrols with them.

Meanwhile, back home, Claus’s wife, Maria (Tuva Novotny), is struggling to hold her family together by herself, managing three kids and having ongoing problems with her middle son. She is fighting her own domestic war.

While leading patrols, Claus becomes aware of danger lurking in the most obvious decisions. After the soldiers provide medical care to a young girl who’s been burnt, the Taliban tell her father that he must join them or his entire family will be slaughtered. Just trying to do the decent thing can have ugly repercussions.

This truth rings even louder when Claus finds himself in an unexpected firefight, with a fellow soldier bleeding out. He takes action, and then that act comes back to haunt him.

Ultimately, Claus is trapped between the truth and his responsibility to, and love for, his family. It’s an impossible situation that, as “A War” makes quite clear, is all too possible.

Tom Long is the former Detroit News film critic.

‘A War’


Not rated

Running time: 115 minutes

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