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Film / No Man's Land

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No Man's Land is a 2001 film from Bosnia and Herzegovina, directed by Danis Tanovic.

It is set in 1993 during the Bosnian war of independence. A Bosnian relief squad is trying to find its way to the front lines. They stop to rest during the night, only to wake at dawn and find out to their horror that they are in no-man's-land between the Bosnian and Serbian trenches. They are promptly mowed down by Serbian machine guns. Only one soldier, Ciki, makes it to temporary refuge in an abandoned trench, wounded but alive.

The Serbs send two soldiers, an older soldier and a newbie named Nino, to scout the situation. Ciki, hiding in a dugout, catches them by surprise, killing the older soldier and wounding Nino. The two enemy soldiers are left trapped together in the trench. Meanwhile, before the older soldier was killed, he set a booby trap mine underneath a Bosnian corpse. It turns out, however, that the corpse isn't a corpse, but a Bosnian soldier named Cira, who wakes up from unconsciousness and finds himself unable to move because of the bomb lying under his back.


Ciki and Nino trade insults and blame for the war as they wait for their respective sides to win the battle, but share small moments of empathy which leads to a unified attempt to save the dying Cira, trapped on the mine. Working together, they hatch a plan to signal both sides to cease fire long enough for a neutral U.N. peacekeeping unit to move in and rescue him. But as much as Ciki and Nino try to do the right thing, they find the truce in the trench is as fragile and volatile as the war around them.



  • All for Nothing: All the efforts to save the three men, particularly those of the French sergeant who leaks the story to the reporter in order to save them, and the story ends with Ciki and Nino dead and Cira doomed to die.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...
    Ciki: Where's the map?
    Nino: What map!
    Ciki: Of Bolivia, stupid! The mines!
  • Black Comedy: There are plenty of laughs in this movie, but it doesn't get much darker.
  • Downer Ending: Ciki shoots Nino to death and is in turn shot to death by a UN soldier. And Cira is abandoned in the trench, doomed to die, after the bomb tech figures out he can't defuse the bomb.
  • Enemy Mine: Eventually Ciki and Nino become reluctant allies as they try to get help.
  • Face Framed in Shadow: Ciki is framed this way as he hides in a dugout, peering through a crack in the wood at the two Serbs.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Cira pulls out a photo of his girlfriend. Of course, in this instance he knows perfectly well he's in mortal peril.
  • Flipping the Bird: An offended Nino does this when Livingtone the journalist asks him if he was the one who planted the mine under the "body".
  • Germanic Efficiency: A UN officer tells another "We're being sent a German bomb disposal expert. Ours are busy. He should arrive at 1530. It is 1530." [German guy arrives] "Pünktlichkeit."
  • Hitler Cam: How Ciki is framed as he stands over a wounded Nino, machine gun in hand.
  • Land Mine Goes "Click!": Cira wakes up to find himself on top of a bomb. He's eventually abandoned there to die, in a case of No Ending.
  • New Meat: Nino, the painfully inexperienced rookie on his first combat mission.
  • Not Quite Dead: The crux of the film's plot is that the corpse the Serbs rigged with a landmine is actually very alive, and if he so much as moves from his spot, both he and the other two men in the trench will die.
  • Old Soldier: The cranky old soldier who accompanies Nino to the trench, who barks at Nino to shed all the equipment he puts on, and later explains to Nino how the "bouncing" mine works.
  • Ominous Fog: Effectively sets the mood at the beginning of the movie, but also plot relevant, as the Ominous Fog leads the Bosnian squadron to halt because they can't see where they're going.
  • Pink Mist: Seen coming out of the back of a Bosnian soldier's head after a bullet enters the front of his head.
  • Porn Stash: Ciki goes through the old soldier's wallet trying to find a land mine map, only to find a picture of a muscular naked man.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Ciki and Nino are killed, the UN pulls out and leaves Cira to die alone in the trench, the Serbs and Bosnians are baited into bombarding the trench to ensure no one ever learns what happened in it, and the war goes on
  • Slave to PR: The leading UN commander, Colonel Soft, is indifferent to the conflict and wants nothing to do with it, but only gets involved once the press catches on to what's happening.
  • The Sociopath: As it turns out, the UN commander, Colonel Soft, as played by Simon Callow. Soft orders the UN to pull out of the situation because he can't be bothered. He only acts after Jane Livingstone's report shames him into it. And then, when he finds out that the mine can't be defused, not only does he abandon Cira to his fate, he leaks to both sides that the other side is going to try and take the trench, dooming Cira to death by artillery if not by the mine.
  • Tap on the Head: Probably more "blast from an artillery shell", but still, Cira is perfectly fine after being unconscious for hours.
  • Title Drop: Multiple references to the trench being located in no man's land.
  • War Is Hell: The war is not romanticized in any way, no side of the conflict is portrayed as even remotely heroic, and the whole thing ends in pointless tragedy.