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Denmark 2010
Directed by
Janus Metz
101 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars


Synopsis: A documentary tracking the first tour of duty a group of Danish soldiers stationed in a military outpost in southern Afghanistan.

Janus Metz’s film is apparently a documentary although it is hard to believe that it not a cleverly crafted simulacrum that lies somewhere between a real documentary such as Shooting vs Shooting (2011) and the fictional representations of The Hurt Locker (2008) or Redacted (2007). The main reason for the question mark is the, if true, remarkable access that the director and his cameraman, Lars Skree, have to the actual experience of their subjects. From a going away party with the sight of the young men sucking on the teat of a stripper to their summary execution of wounded mujahadeen it is hard to believe that either the soldiers themselves would allow themselves to the documented this way or that the Danish army would allow journalists a life-threatening presence in an actual gun battle or that such footage to be publically aired (apparently the documentary caused  a ruckus amongst the Danes who were scandalized by what they saw). Maybe this is a result of a more mature media in Denmark than other Western countries, particularly the US (if you’re interested in this subject, Shooting vs Shooting is well worth hunting down, so to speak), but even so, Metz seems to have been extremely fortunate in the way his initial choices panned out with such scandalous results.

Either way, Armadillo is indeed a shocking portrait of a Western military force in action. Just as we know from films such as the ones already mentioned, the Danish soldiers are young testosterone-fueled thrill-seekers who watch porn and play violent video games whilst they want for an opportunity to play at being real life heroes. When they do get an opportunity, from our detached perspective at least, their actions are a good deal less than heroic. Relatively unusually we also get the perspective of the local Afghans, who, trapped between the invading Westerners and the Taliban fanatics, resign themselves to a no-win situation. It’s a sad and ugly reality but one in which as with The Hurt Locker, the young grunts find themselves more alive than the tepid security of their middle class homes.

Available from: Madman




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