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‘A War’ Worth Seeing—Before the Oscars

Aside from being an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, A War is the work of someone I greatly admire, Danish writer-director Tobias Lindholm. If you saw A Hijacking—a film that deserved the same level of attention as Captain Phillips—or any of the films he’s co-written, like Submarino and the searing Oscar nominee The Hunt, you’ll understand my enthusiasm.

In A War he turns his attention to the Danish presence in Afghanistan, focusing on a company commander (Pilou Asbæk, the star of A Hijacking) who tries to bring empathy and humanity to his job, especially when it comes to dealing with his men. They are understandably scared and frustrated, and he is a superb leader who sets an example for his tight-knit unit. Perhaps that’s because he’s also a husband and father… but right now, his wife and children are suffering because of his absence. His older son is acting out and his wife is doing her best to keep their family on track.

Lindholm doesn’t judge his characters: he leaves that to us, which is why this story is told in such a straightforward manner. Despite its gripping scenes of action and emotional stress, it follows a fairly simple through-line and doesn’t feel the need to build to a spectacular climax. The filmmaker lays the groundwork for us to have feelings for the soldiers, the Afghan natives, and the family left behind at home.

The movie is also a great showcase for handsome leading man Asbæk, who is playing Pontius Pilate in the upcoming remake of Ben-Hur and has just been signed to appear in the sixth season of Game of Thrones. By the time he becomes familiar to fans of that show, A War will be just a credit on his résumé. But it begs to be seen now, while it is playing in theaters.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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