The consequences of combat

Writer/director Tobias Lindholm’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee A War (original title Krigen) is an credible drama about men in war and the consequences of their actions. Although it’s in Danish, the storyline is easy to follow and has universal resonance.

Pilou Asbaek plays Claus Pederson, the commander of a unit stationed in Afghanistan. During a firefight with Taliban forces, Pederson and his men are pinned down, necessitating an air strike to effect their escape.

As it transpires, however, a civilian target was bombed – and of the 11 civilian casualties, eight were children. Claus is immediately shipped home to await a hearing, reunited with his wife Maria (Tuva Novotny), who has struggled to raise their three children in his absence. For Maria, the ends tend to justify the means; her husband is home and they are a family again. He did what he had to do in order to save his men.

Claus, who is liked and respected by his men (some of whom would otherwise have likely perished), balances that decision with mounting concern over his fate. If found guilty by the court, he could be sentenced to prison. Regardless, it’s clear that Claus will carry emotional baggage for the rest of his life, a deepening pain quietly but effectively conveyed in Asbaek’s perceptive and sympathetic performance. His eyes tell the whole story. He’ll be in a prison of his own regardless of the trial’s outcome. (In Danish with English subtitles)

A War opens Friday !