Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Central Slavonia during the Croatian war of independence. About 20 Croatian soldiers embark in an improvised tank into Kusonje, a village under Serb control. However, their vehicle gets immobilised by an anti-tank missile, and the 20 soldiers thus hide in an abandoned nearby house marked only with a number 55. During the following 24 hours, they will try to hold on the siege of the house by the Serb paramilitary and Yugoslav People's Army, despite a shortage of ammunition, waiting for the help to arrive. In the morning, they run out of ammunition, and the Serb paramilitary kill them.
The first film in the planned series of battles and clashes during the War in Croatia, Kristijan Milic's "Number 55" is a rather effective alloy of a war and action film (the latter genre is practically non-existent in Croatian cinema) and a proportionally noble, albeit exaggerated and too "Rambo-ish" depiction of a true event of a group of 20 Croatian soldiers who tried to hold out a siege of a house they were hiding in. From the technical perspective, the movie is assembled practically flawlessly and highly professionally (if the overused style of tedious "washed out" colors, reminiscent of "Saving Private Ryan", is ignored), yet from the narrative-personal-artistic perspective it lacks in certain areas, the most problematic being that the 20 soldiers are all faceless, one-dimensional extras whose names and characteristics were highly neglected at the expense of just showing them fight, and as such there is no emotional attachment to them, while this in turn aggravates the attempt of the viewers to identify and care more about their fates. Indeed, after the closing credits, the viewers would probably not be able to name even one name of the soldiers, and as such Milic should have taken more care about the writing, not just the pyrotechnics, and could have taken a note or two from Carpenter's excellent (and very similar) siege thriller "Assault on Precint 13". Still, the pace is highly dynamic, no expenses were saved to conjure up explosions and realism (the slow-motion scene of one soldier getting hit in the arm and the other in the head), depicting how in war anyone can become dead or disabled in a matter of seconds, whereas one cannot deny the power accumulated in the mood.