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Film / A War

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A War (Kriegen) is a 2015 film from Denmark directed by Tobias Lindholm.

Claus (Pilou Asbæk, aka Euron Greyjoy on Game of Thrones) is the commanding officer of a Dutch platoon on the front lines of The War on Terror in Afghanistan, fighting the Taliban. Morale is low. The men can't see any point in endless patrols against the Taliban that result in a steady stream of casualties for little gain. Claus's own morale is pretty low as well, given his long separation from his wife Maria and their three children. Back at home, Maria is struggling to raise the kids by herself.

One day a man from the nearby village, who sought help from Claus's men for his sick daughter, comes to the base and asks for protection from the Taliban. Claus leads his platoon out to the village the next morning, only to find that the man and his whole family have been killed during the night. Only seconds after they realize this the platoon comes under artillery bombardment from the Taliban, who were lying in wait. Pinned down, with a man seriously wounded, Claus calls for an airstrike on the Taliban position—an action that has tragic consequences.

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  • Call-Back: Near the end, as Claus is tucking his little son in, he sees the boy's feet and remembers the feet of the dead Afghan girl as they were sticking out of a blanket.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Claus, who has to deal with the guilt over sending men out on patrols, even as he tries to keep up their morale. And later he has to defend his actions after a snap decision made in combat.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Lasse is taking puffs on a cigarette as he shakes and cries following the patrol that got Anders killed.
  • Could Say It, But...: Claus's lawyer says that he's not in the business of ethics, then explains that if Claus says he didn't have PID ("positive identification") that there were Taliban in Compound 6 he might go to jail, but if he can say that he might beat the rap. Claus refuses this veiled invitation to lie.
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  • Downer Beginning: The first scene shows the squad out on patrol. A soldier named Anders gets both his legs blown off by an IED. He bleeds to death in less than a minute.
  • Human Shield: The squad is lying in wait when a Taliban soldier comes by to retrieve an IED. The soldier makes some nearby kids line up as he retrieves the IED, so that they'll shield him from the soldiers. As he rides away, he picks up a boy to use as a shield. He underestimates the ability of snipers, though, and gets shot off his bike from 500 meters away as soon as he pushes the boy off the bike.
  • Jitter Cam: Used for all the combat scenes.
  • Obligatory War-Crime Scene: The central conflict of the movie, namely whether what Claus did was a war crime. Pinned down, with a man bleeding from a shot in the neck, Claus calls in an airstrike on where he thinks the Taliban are. It appears to work, as the Taliban artillery fire ends and the helicopter comes to take Lasse away. It also gets 11 civilians killed.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Lasse, who starts breaking down and weeping after the mission that gets Anders killed. He begs to go home but a regretful Claus can only offer him two weeks of light duty in camp.
  • Talking with Signs: How Lasse, who can't talk due to surgery after he was shot in the neck, thanks the guys in a video letter to his unit.
  • War Is Hell: Sometimes your buddy gets his legs blown off and quickly dies. Sometimes little girls get executed.
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