As you might expect, A War – Tobias Lindholm’s Academy Award-nominated follow up to A Hijacking – begins in a warzone. A contingent of Danish soldiers, lead by commander Claus (Pilou Asbæk) meet with tragedy due to an IED in the wilds of occupied Afghanistan. We cut away to Denmark, where Claus’ wife (Tuva Novotny) and family await his safe return.
But this isn’t the wartime drama I’d anticipated. The second half of the film uncoils into a morally-taut courtroom standoff, and the previous hour reveals itself as a rigorously executed build up into questions of duty and justice. Perhaps too rigorous; despite superlative work from cast and crew, A War too frequently feels airless, beholden to an impartial approach as suggested by its unadorned realist approach.
I suspect I’m betraying my biases; as with my lukewarm reaction to the similarly-structured Don’t Tell, I tend to prefer my courtroom dramas with a thick vein of melodrama. A War goes out of its way to question the moral fibre of characters we’ve up until then closely sympathised with, which does make for tough viewing. It’s testament to this approach’s efficacy that its putatively happy ending feels anything but celebratory. A tough, rewarding watch.