Friday, 20 January 2012

Review: Five Days of War

Five Days of War (c) 2011 Anchor Bay Films

The finnish Hollywood director Renny Harlin has been giving out interviews in local newspapers where he claims his new film is about the shades of grey in modern warfare where wars are being fought in multiple fronts at the same time. At the same time he claims that even though his mother helped the war effort against the Soviet Union neither his family or anyone from where he lived as a child had fear, anger towards Russia or any sort of discriminating feelings toward Russians. Judging by his new film, Five Days of August, neither of these claims are even remotely true.

The film is based on the short-lived war between Russia and Georgia during August 2008. The area of South Ossetia wanted to become independent, which Russia supported. Thus, Georgia sent troops to silence rebels in that area. Russia saw that as an act of aggression, and in turn sent their troops to Georgia. Aftera number of hostilities, a truce was signed after five days, yet the conditions that led to the war didn't improve much. South Ossetians still live in poverty and squalor under the iron hand of their Georgian leaders.

Clearly, this is a war where it's not easy to pinpoint guilty parties, since neither Russia nor Georgia really worked according to Internationally accepted protocols. But Harlin's propagandist film portrays the war as a Russian invasion, where Georgians are a heroic folk that get invaded byt the eeeeviiill Russians. And while the rest of the world is tuned in to the Olympics, the Georgians get no international help in their fight against the stronger aggressor. The conditions in South Ossetia are barely even mentioned. Fittingly, the film begins with the clichéd quote "The first casuality of war is the truth". Harlin certainly isn't portraying any.

Five Days of War (c) 2011 Anchor Bay Films
The film looks at the conflict basically from three different viewpoint. At the center are international reporter Thomas Anders (Rupert Friend), who in the prologue narrowly escapes a tough spot in Iraq, thanks to Georgians. Years later he is in Georgia when the war begins, but finds it hard to pass any news articles about the conflict to western media focusing on the Beijing Olympics. He comes across a Georgian wedding that is demolished by the Russians bombing civilian targets. The young woman Tatia (Emmannuelle Chriqui) is separated from her family members, some dead, some alive, and begins an attempt to find them before they are captured or killed by the invading Russian troops. And there's the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (Andy Garcia) pouting just because no other country is attempting to help Georgia in its time of need.

Harlin's still not a bad director, which makes it a shame he always makes so godawful films. The action scenes blow up reasonably enough dirt and are loud enough that the viewer does get a feeling that he's in the middle of a war. The trouble is, the film's otherwise so clichéd, so filled with pathos and so one-dimensional, it's an effort to even try to symphatize with the characters in the film. The main plot sees a race to release footage of Russian soldiers murdering, raping and pillaging a civilian farm. The film's diabolic portrayal of Russians reminds me of Harlin's first feature film, Born American. The film portrayed Russians as so ridiculously evil and sadistic, the film was cencored in Finland to not awake controversy with the foreign relations with our bigger, neighboring state.

Harlin also has trouble keeping his film's overarching themes consistent. Garcia has little to do in the film but to worry and make a patriotic speech in the end. All of his scenes are repetitive and quite boring. Harlin's own interest also lies in the battlefield, not in politics. To bring a little more B-grade star power to the film, Val Kilmer plays a veteran war correspondent called The Dutchman. He fits in the film even worse than Garcia. Kilmer has bloated a lot in recent years, and acts through his scenes as if he's deeply stoned. He mumbles a few hilarious phrases that have little to nothing to do with the film, and wanders off again. The image of fat Kilmer in a bubble bath in the beginning is something that does not wash away from eyes that easily.

The "War is like a toothless bitch" scene is the best one in the film, though.

The final straw of it's sheer propagandistic flavor is that Harlin ends the whole ordeal with shots of actual war widows, orphans and people who lost others close to them in the war. As an attempt to make the viewer uneasy and a little guilty, this accomplishes. But as an effort to make it touching, this fails, as the idea was done better in the end of Band of Brothers episodes already. Renny, a word of advice (sure you're reading. I follow you on Twitter!). If you want to depict a certain truth about something, do a documentary. If you do propaganda, do so, but don't lie straight to our faces that it's the truth.

Five Days Of War
USA 2011

Renny Harlin

Mikko Alanne, David Battle


Checco Varese

Rupert Friend, Richard Coyle, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Andy Garcia, Val Kilmer, Mikko Nousiainen

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...