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.