Tuesday, May 27, 2014
5 Days of War
In August 2008, dictator Vladimir Putin orders the Russian army to cross the international border and invade Georgia, ostensibly to protect Georgia's break-away provinces South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but in reality to carve up two new loyal puppet states. War reporter Thomas travels to Gori to witness the war and its victims. Together with Tatia, a Georgian woman, and reporter Sebastian, they have to bring a memory card containing footage of a Russian war crime to the public, thus turning into a target. They make it, while Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili pledges to keep its country independent.
Despite its lukewarm reception and biased approach, "5 Days of War" is a much better film than expected, with a few bitter contemplations about how pointless any war is: it actually starts with the Iraq War, where the hero reporter loses his friend (Heather Graham, whose character dies already after 3 minutes), only to move to the next insanity, the Russian-Georgian War. Overall, this makes for a more cynical theme, namely how the main protagonist Thomas, a war reporter, figures that his profession is actually to be a vulture during disaster times. The storyline is often one-dimensional - for instance, Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili (very good Andy Garcia) is practially shown as an angel who never did anything wrong, even though the incidents around South Ossetia were far more complex - and suffers from a few cliches, most memorably from the 'hero-saved-in-the-nick-of-time', whereas the thin characters needed more development (one of the few exceptions is Val Kilmer's character, the 'goofball' reporter who even tries to lighten up Thomas, Sebastian and Tatia by saying: "Cheer up, it's only a war!") and the action sequences required more inspiration. However, the film flows smoothly, its authenticity is helped by the fact that it was actually filmed in Georgia, and it has a few moments, such as the shocking scene where a Russian paramilitary takes an old lady from the crowd and shoots her in the river, or the macabre, almost sardonic bloody duel under Stalin's statue in Gori. A fair war movie, yet due to the above mentioned omissions, it is not among the best films about the consequences of Russian imperialism, such as "Charlie Wilson's War" or "The Unbearable Lightness of Being".