Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I Declare War

I DECLARE WAR                  D+     
Canada  (91 mi)  2012  ‘Scope  d:  Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson      Official site

This is a children’s film that’s inappropriate for children, as physical and psychological torture porn have now crept into children’s films, while it’s also inappropriate for adults, as this is really just a children’s film that has little to do with actual children.  So who is the audience for a film like this?  That’s likely only part of the problem, as it’s a bit too preposterous to be taken seriously, while what’s worse is nonchalantly juxtaposing such deeply disturbing adult immorality into the actions of children.  The kids could easily be cast for Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom (2012), as they’re young and innocent, some probably not even in their teens yet, with some with those high pitched children’s voices where boys can still sing soprano in the church choir.  The entire film takes place in the woods where all boys, and one tomboyish older girl, are playing a two-team war game that is little more than capture the flag, with strange rules about how to actually register a kill, as otherwise kids can get shot, but if not killed within ten seconds, they can spring back to life and stay in the game.  Once killed, you are instructed to go home.  In this manner, certain characters that are around in the beginning of the film have long since left by the end.  The two teams have leaders, where the most realistic aspect of the film is kids getting an attitude about having to take instructions from somebody else instead of just doing what you want, as any adult could be interchangeable with the leader, and many kids would be just as upset being told what to do.  Of course, boys are thrown off their game with a girl playing, as they don’t exactly know what to make of a girl in the game, where one suggests she use her exotic powers as a girl to get another boy’s attention before killing him.           

But that’s not the way this game plays out, as early on kids want to ignore the rules and get a quick advantage by cheating, thinking it would be so much simpler that way.  Enter PK (Gage Munroe), a short kid with a Napoleonic complex—no not because of his diminutive size, but because he’s read books and actually studied Napoleon’s battle tactics, so in over a dozen games this kid is undefeated in this particular war game.  He doesn’t wish to blemish his record by cheating, so he orders his soldiers to play fair, despite their disgruntled anger, but we soon discover the other team isn’t remotely playing fair at all, so there’s an unseen psychological struggle going on in the woods that effects each and every one of the kids.  What appears to be innocent fun isn’t that at all, as some kids are getting beat up, another is continually tortured, where some only exhibit weird personalities with toilet humor obsessions, the kind of things that suggests many of these kids have little to no social skills and are likely friendless.  While the film pushes the limits of what people are willing to endure for the sake of friendship, one has to ask why would they allow themselves to get beat up and not go home?  Why would they stick around for more abuse?  And that’s exactly what these directors have in store for us, as one of the team leaders, Skinner (Michael Friend) develops psychotic tendencies, where he enjoys hurting other kids, always threatening to make matters even worse, which suggests he’s mentally unstable.  What kid wants to play war games in the woods with mentally unstable characters?  When it reaches this stage, it stops being fun, as kids are getting hurt, and at some point, escalating the brutality, something horrific could really happen.  Watching Napoleon and Mussolini wannabe’s try to psychologically mix it up with ever more unpleasant dirty tactics is just not much fun to watch. 

While one could easily take this as an allegory for the absurdly moronic behavior of adult warfare, where all rules are off, winning by any means is the real goal, but these kids aren’t even old enough to be in high school, where they couldn’t possibly understand the degree of human savagery involved.  And let’s face it, who would ever want to play this game again?  But here kids just suck it up and endure endless torture of a psychotically disturbed kid, only to escape, and rather than go home, they willingly walk right back into the same trap all over again.  The other galling aspect of the movie is the pure idiocy of kids supposedly remaining hidden from view, but instead they’re walking right out in the open, talking loudly as can be, making themselves the easiest targets to spot, yet this behavior continues throughout the film.  There are plenty of moments where enemy targets are standing right in front of them and are simply ignored, no explanations offered, where it’s as if the game stops while kids verbally threaten and intimidate one another, and no one has the wherewithal to just end it right there.  The directors do add a few visual twists, where the stick rifles in their hands become sophisticated guns firing real bullets, whether automatic guns and rifles, or bazookas.  One kid seems to be practicing his use of X-Ray vision, where if he concentrates hard enough he can make his target explode.  Afterwards, of course, we realize this is all just his imagination.  But the psychotic behavior and brutal torture tactics are never imaginary, becoming all too real, where it’s literally uncomfortable watching kids engage in such disturbingly sick behavior, never having the good sense to just stop and go home.  When all is said and done, this film offers very little human insight, where the war game itself never materializes, as most aren’t even playing the game half the time. There’s not a single kid who’s actually having any fun, as the kids taunt and abuse one another throughout, where the film is instead an expression of a bullying psychotic weirdo taking over the game while other kids timidly let him.  Stay home already, anything’s better than being subject to more of this phony baloney, a candidate for one of the worst films seen this year.    

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