Monday, August 22, 2011

Movie with Abe: 5 Days of War

5 Days of War
Directed by Renny Harlin
Released August 19, 2011

In any war, there are casualties, and in most cases, opposing forces are not equally matched. “5 Days of War” chronicles the five-day armed conflict between Russia and Georgia that arose in 2008 when Georgia moved forward to try to join NATO. The film follows a journalist and his cameraman as they accompany a local woman in search of her family through the most dangerous territories in the midst of the conflict. It’s a film that, more than anything, seeks to capture the horrors of war and the intensity and inescapability of such a situation, which it achieves with extraordinary effectiveness.

Rupert Friend stars in the film

The film takes on a decidedly Georgian perspective from the outset, flashing frequently between the journalists on the front lines and Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili in the presidential office, determined to maintain a ceasefire despite the mobilization of invading Russian troops. While the story of the journalists is a constructed amalgamation of several journalists, as director Renny Harlin reveals, the rest of the story is based on true events. When Harlin met with Saakashvili, he cited Andy Garcia as his favorite actor, and so Harlin met only with Garcia to play the part. They were somewhat unusually permitted to film the scenes with Garcia in the presidential office, giving the film an air of authenticity and allowing a story that the Georgians very much want told to be made.

Star Andy Garcia discusses the film

Harlin’s most notable films include “Die Hard 2,” “Exorcist: The Beginning,” “The Covenant,” and “12 Rounds,” making him an interesting choice to bring this particular story to life. Harlin explains that he had been making Hollywood popcorn films for years, and is now seeking to have his films be meaningful in a different way, with a basis in reality. He describes “5 Days of War” as “a story that could have taken place anywhere, with people that are fighting from their freedom and independence,” and paints Georgia as “the poster child for the American idea of an emerging democracy.” He believes he told the story truthfully based on extensive research, and hopes that people will be able to relate on a human level. The full access granted by the Georgian government was beneficial, and he also recalls how his Russian special effects team often created tension with untrusting Georgians, since the conflict has hardly been forgotten.

Director Renny Harlin discusses the film

Thanks to Harlin’s action film roots, “5 Days of War” is a fully engaging, highly emotional and disturbing war piece that gets going from the very start. Harlin defends the casting of British actor Rupert Friend in the lead role of journalist Thomas Anders, emphasizing that he didn’t want the safety of a big star in that part. Garcia, whose role takes place far off from the conflict in Saakashvili’s office, compares the experience of watching the entire film to the first twelve minutes of “Saving Private Ryan.” The story does contain a bit of hokey romance and dramatics that it could have done without, but ultimately that is eclipsed by the extraordinarily stirring and powerful imagery and thematic content of a strong war movie.


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