War films without sensational violence do exist. In the decent and solid Danish film Krigen, a commander has more to fear from a disciplinary council than from the Taliban.
Although Krigen begins exactly the same way as The Hurt Locker, with a landmine that abruptly and horribly costs a soldier his life, the Danish war film is fundamentally different from the average American film. Writer-director Tobias Lindholm is not interested in exciting his audience with spectacular action scenes. He aims to use a very concrete story to make you reflect on responsibility, guilt, justice, the occasionally very fine line between a war hero and a war criminal, and the question of what Danish soldiers were doing in Afghanistan. Different parties give their credible, defensible perspectives. These perspectives are sometimes diametrically opposed. Choosing sides is extremely difficult. The main character Claus Michael Pedersen (class act Pilou Asbæk) doesn’t even know whether he should side with himself and his family. He is an almost exemplary soldier and ideal commander but nevertheless gets himself into very hot water. War is never clean. It is never wise to judge in a court the decisions that were made in the heat of battle. But of course this does imply that soldiers should not be subjected to the strictest regulations. Director Lindholm learned his trade as a scriptwriter for the television series Borgen and the two films with which Thomas Vinterberg got himself out of the pit (Jagten, Submarino). Just like in his hostage drama Kapringen, much of the tension is generated by the credibility of the situations and the naturalistic performances from the actors. He also had the brilliant idea not to make the soldier’s wife and children one-dimensional characters, but completely involved in the story with their own problems and needs. What use is a father who is off fighting in distant lands? Lindholm is not a great stylist, but he knows how to raise interesting dilemmas.
DK, 2015, dir.: Tobias Lindholm, act.: Pilou Asbæk, Tuva Novotny, 115 min.