Genre – War
Run Time – 108 minutes
Certificate – 18
Country – United Kingdom
BFTA – 1 nomination
Awards – 4 Wins & 4 Nominations
Amazon – £5.99 DVD £8.99 Blue Ray
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In September 2001 four commercial airliners full of Saudi terrorists funded by Saudi money through Saudi facilitators and a Saudi prince - or two - hit the United States. The Americans knew all this ‘awkward’ Saudi stuff pretty early on in the investigation in but powerless to act against a state sponsored Saudi attack, instead blaming a tall man with a beard in Afghanistan that didn’t much like America but looked like a terrorist mastermind after all, the perfect Muslim foil. Saudi provide America with cheap oil that sustains and powers the US economy, and in return the US sustain and empower the 5000 plus members of the ruling Royal House of Saud with billions of dollars of the latest weapons and intelligence to keep them in power. But the majority of Saudi’s hate the House of Saud as they do America and so this status quo could not be threatened by 911. Some say the Saudi government covertly sanctioned 911 to show their people where their loyalties really lay by putting America in their place so the Saudi people going on tolerate their warped Islamic oppression, all the time the Saudi elite hypocritically enjoying the high life by jetting off around the world whilst their people live behind the veil at home. The Middle East is game the West can not afford not to play and so must have a counter on the board if they want to secure their oil supply. They got together and decided it was that bloke with the beards fault instead and dropped a ton of old audience on him, ‘blowing holes in the sand with million dollar missiles’, as George Bush put it.
The war wasn’t totally pointless in Afghanistan as it’s a surprising strategic stronghold for both Russia and the West. For the US they could park their military next to 50% of the world’s natural gas fields and influence the regions politics. For Britain’s involvement it was Blair playing tough and young soldiers were sacrificed there for his ego, a deplorable man, the true story of Kajaki another example of that futile war there, made into this tense BAFTA nominated action movie.
• David Elliot as Mark Wright
• Mark Stanley as Tug
• Scott Kyle as Stu Pearson
• Benjamin O'Mahony as Stu Hale
• Bryan Parry as Jonesy
• Liam Ainsworth as Ken Barlow
• Ali Cook as Spud McMellon
• Andy Gibbins as Smudge
• Grant Kilburn as Alex Craig
• John Doughty as Dave Prosser
• Jon-Paul Bell as Luke Mauro
• Malachi Kirby as Snoop
• Paul Luebke as Jay Davis
• Robert Mitchell as Faz
• Thomas Davison as Jarhead
• Abe Dababneh as Kajaki Jon
• Felipe Cabezas as Kajaki Mike
• Hazem Alagha as Steven "Bombhead" Watson
Atop the dusty hills in the likewise region of Kajacki, South East Afghanistan, a vital reservoir and dam are being protected by the coalition troops. The mostly British units do what soldiers do as they while away the hours of boredom with occasional soldering dug in ready for action. Today some Taliban soldiers have been spotted afar setting up a roadblock and the British decide to move some lads to a forward position to get them in sniper range.
A three-man patrol sets out but soon in trouble in a dried out river bed at the foot of the ridge in the stifling heat. As they make their way across it one of the patrol detonates a land mine, blowing off his leg. But they are not Taliban or Northern Alliance mines that have caught them out but an old Russian minefield from the 1980s, Tug (Mark Stanley) ready to bleed out from his stump. The two uninjured lads try to call it in but the radios are not working properly and so one has to run back to base to get help.
Medic Mark Wright (David Elliot) and two others arrive and begin to treat Tug. It’s a risky situation as there are clearly other mines around them. But whilst waiting for the helicopter recovery, another man is blown up and now two in need of immediate evac. When the chopper arrives it’s the wrong sort, a huge two bladed Chinnock that kicks up rocks and dust over the minefield and threatens all of their lives. They need a smaller Apache. As the day drags on the harrowing scene gets worse as extraordinary tales of bravery, selflessness and heroism stack up as Corporal Wright and his comrades risk their own lives to help each other.
This got 100% on film review site rottentomatoes.com although not that good for me. The American critics were very keen on it and I guess that is because this is not as bombastic and over-the-top as an America war movie, like the seriously over-rated Hurt Locker.
As a British war film it feels more like a TV drama, packed full of that understated acting and that British sense of humor in a crisis getting out of control. The soldiers are not cliché as we understand them in American films and the relatively unknown cast gives this a real human touch. Soldiers are regular guys after all who behave like you and me but in an extraordinary situation.
Although some critics have said this is a gentle polemic against war I think it’s the exact opposite and shows the reality of war that young working-class men join up to fight and feel pride, the same as their enemy, and so not people who want to be felt sorry for if they lose the war, and indeed their limbs. I think the saddest thing about being a soldier is how they are discarded when they leave or blown out of the war by those IEDs. We recall the heroics of Douglas Bader fighting with his wooden leg but today they do not want young men back on the field with missing limbs as it reminds the other lads what could be coming their way. This is why wounded soldiers are always hidden away and forgotten, why Prince Harry’s work is so admirable. Would you join up knowing you had a 10% chance of losing a limb in Afghanistan and 33% chance of PTSD when you got home and so eventual family breakdown? Soldiers have divorce rates up their with retired Premier League footballers.
It’s not an action packed movie and the tension all about the lads trapped in the minefield. It’s slightly off in the lads didn’t have any basic minesweeping kit with them in their camp and why so many got blown up when they already knew their perilous situation but I guess we all know they never had the right kit for most of that war. The amount of lads that did get done by IED bombs because they were given the wrong kind of armored vehicles is horrific.
Script wise it’s earthy and appropriate and the actor’s embrace their roles. I think they chose relatively unknown lads to find this type of ‘down-to-earth performance. My one critic would be that once we are in the minefield we kind of know how it’s going to play out although every time a mine goes off its unexpected and makes you jump. It would have been nice to have more political comment in this on the futility of that war and that old fashioned class conflict of men verses officers.
Imdb.com – 7.1/10.0 (8,657votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 100% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 67% critic’s approval
Globe & Mail -‘Mines detonate, the men hold on, the humor is the gallows' kind and the audience's gut is as tight as the tourniquets on the hurt soldiers' stumps’.
Washington Post –‘Few war films are entertaining in a traditional sense. This one is so relentless that recoiling from it is nearly impossible’.
The Mail –‘By casting unknowns, Katis only ratchets up the tension more, leaving his audiences breathless throughout, unable to second guess who might make it out alive’.
Under the Radar –‘An arguably anti-war depiction of true events, yet one that expertly eschews the mawkish or sanctimonious didacticism such films frequently espouse.
National Post –‘The cast are fully believable, and the landscape - Jordan filling in for Afghanistan, as it did for Saudi Arabia in the recent release Theeb - provides another character, implacable and indifferent. War may be hell, but hell can be starkly beautiful too’.
The Sun –‘A rare, incredibly well executed film about brotherhood, tenacity and grit’.