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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » A War (Blu-ray)
A War (Blu-ray)
Magnolia Home Entertainment // R // June 7, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $29.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ryan Keefer | posted June 1, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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The Movie:

Danish filmmaker Tobias Lindholm finds his storytelling acumen improving following his 2013 film The Hunt and his last writer/director effort in (A Hijacking. With A War, he attempts to show the moviegoing public that the magic he captured then was no fluke.

Claus (Pilou Asbaek, Lucy) is the commanding officer of a Dane unit in Afghanistan. They are there to hold off the threat of the Taliban while winning hearts and minds of the locals. He's married to Maria (Tuva Novotny, Eat Pray Love) and looks forward to spending time with her and their three kids at Christmas. Claus and his men are ambushed by the Taliban during a mission to retrieve a local Afghan family, and he orders an airstrike that has tragic circumstances. Claus has to deal with the ramifications from that decision but the ramifications my impact Maria and his children as an unfortunate result.

On the case of the disc The Boston Globe sets the bar of hyperbole for A War by saying it's among the best war films ever. I honestly can't say if it is or isn't, but it makes a pretty damn good claim for itself, splitting the onscreen time between Claus and Maria as evenly as any war film I can remember. It is something I'm surprised that more war films don't do, because it gives added depth to the military figure while building on the strength that those at home have. And we see that strength is tested on Maria; one son gets into fights at school, while their youngest is rushed to the hospital for a medical scare; seeing Maria's face as the boy asks for his father is a superb touch from Lindholm because it goes beyond what is being played out on the hospital bed. In between scenes like this, and phone calls home where one of Claus' children tells a joke to someone, you find yourself wanting to have Claus come home to his family almost as much as Claus does.

When the action in the war come, the actions through it are handled well; Lindstrom helps balance between Claus' perspective and what we actually see; while there could be a ‘fog of war' cloud hovering over his judgment, there is also no excuse-making a viewer could make from what you see. What makes A War effective is that the decisions are made and not telegraphed and they resonance that much more with those who see them.

Minor spoilers here, skip the ‘graph if you'd like.

The only sticking point for me was the court process that Claus undergoes. The proceedings seem to not have as much thought put into them as the war sequences do and they show it. Claus endures the events in a routine manner, and there is a glancing moment or two of emotional resonance. The hook in terms of the trial and the result does feel like a logical choice, but cheapens the material that proceeded it.

Asbaek has worked with Lindholm before and I was impressed by his work as Claud for the most part, though I felt Novotny had the better performance. Dar Salim (Exodus: Gods and Kings) plays Nayib, Claus' friend from the academy and his second in command and I really enjoyed his work, as well as Dulfi Al-Jabouri, who plays Lasse, a soldier under Claus' command.

A War finished as a runner-up to Son of Saul) for Best Foreign Language Film at this year's Oscars, but it should be no less ignored as it is original in storytelling and will leave the viewer to mull over the actions by some of its characters. It may not be among the best war films of all-time, but it's pretty high up there.

The Blu-ray:
The Video:

Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and using the AVC codec, Magnolia gives A War a transfer that reproduces the film nicely. The color palette is somewhat drab, going from the browns of the Afghan desert to the grays of the Danish winter and doing so nicely. The film doesn't possess razor sharp image detail but it's present on tighter shots of the soldier's uniforms and in facial hair (damn those Scandanavians and their glorious beards). The source material looks good and while not stellar, the transfer does the film justice.

The Sound:

DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround for your ears and it turns out to be a fairly dynamic soundtrack. The subwoofer gets involved early with the explosion of an IED, and the military sequences include polished channel panning and directional effects that put you in the middle of the action. Gunfire from a sniper is clear and effective in isolated moments also. In moments of lesser dynamic range in the Danish homestead, children playing can be heard in the rear channels (but not seen) and dialogue is consistent through the feature. Very good soundtrack from Magnolia.

Extras:

There is a behind the scenes look at the film (5:24) which looks at the inspiration for the story and thoughts on casting, as well as how they handled the authenticity of the film. Lindstrom sits down for a separate interview (16:30) where he talks about how this film is different from other war films, his thoughts on war, and what war films influenced him in making this one. He also talks about the critical and popular reception for it. An Army reserve Colonel named Arnold Strong shares his thoughts on the film (1:31), followed by other veterans after a Los Angeles screening (:58). The trailer (2:32) completes things.

Final Thoughts:

A War is a very good film from an unexpected source, with excellent performances by its male and female leads that shows the effect of war both at home and abroad nicely. Technically, the disc is a little better than expected, though could have used a little bit of work on the bonus material. Definitely worth viewing for all fans of war films, regardless of their language.

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