The 2009 war flick ‘Armadillo’ is a must-see dude film this summer. Have it running in the living room while you grill out on the deck- my conjecture is; your guests will starve for the two hours, more than those thick steaks. No other piece of film-making you have seen, so blends the two genres of documentary films and narrative films. It’s not bleak; although being a war film. But it will bring combat and cameraderie into your viewing scene. With muted color. With graphic intensity. With pounding warfare.
It seems slightly off, that two European amateur film makers can make a better war narru-mentary; than us Americans. But that’s the case. Forget ‘Restrepo’. Abandon ‘Rambo’ (for a sec.). This is the film that wraps and warps-up our military adventure in Afghanistan. It might not be the Korengal Valley (where the Americans are), but all the more: fierce fighting because there is hardly any shelter from enemy fire.
Armadillo follows a dozen Dutch soldiers into Helmand Province. Once stationed at forward operating base ‘Armadillo’, they are sent on reconnaissance missions, to close neighbors. It’s never quite clear who the enemy is, who is not. The film remains an action-moved narrative that hypnotizes because it does not boast. Soldiers become mad-driven freedom fighters, in a war against ghosts. Their ‘lives’ explain themselves: there isn’t much forceful editing, overhanded score and the like.
But arm yourself with those colors: seeped into the sand, dripping from vegetation, burning on the soldiers faces in the dark.
Narratively the story stays true to itself, it doesn’t give the possibility of finding answers under such warlike circumstances, the way ‘Restrepo’ does. Really, it is a war film for almost any age group. Even younger viewers might come away with some ‘lessons’ pulled out from it. Evidently, there is; at least one gruesome scene in the end; but over all- the inward conflict of the main group of characters could take place anywhere. Young men full of ethos. Living along their characteristics and rules. There’s not much dialogue-either. It’s visual impact is enough. Often silence explains more.
‘Armadillo’ is not afraid to go where other war films don’t meander.
Some times the best way to understand complicated and fraught events like the Afghanistan War, is to add measurable imagination, and balance real life sorrow with lyrical, make believe alchemy. It’s not a film you’ll watch over again.
Watching films, though, won’t be the same after the Armadillo climax. Grab some drinks, slice those steaks (for the others too) and see Armadillo! Winning the Grand Prix of the week award at the Cannes Film Festival, it will give you an other perspective on Afghanistan this summer.