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5 Days Of War

USA 2011
Directed by
Renny Harlin
113 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
3 stars

5 Days Of War

Synopsis: The story of the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia told through the eyes of war correspondent, Thomas Anders (Rupert Friend), his cameraman Sebastian (Richard Coyle) and the local girl they befriend (Emmanuelle Chriqui).

5 Days Of War is a film that sits uncomfortably with me. On the one hand, it’s an interesting drama that gives a bit of insight into some horrific events that unquestionably have a basis in truth. The fact that the end of the film features survivors of the war describing what happened to their families guarantees that. On the other hand, it’s a pathetically clichéd action film that strips much of the dignity of its characters by forcing them to hop to the step of stupid plot contrivances full of genuinely awful dialogue. Having someone yell “Don’t you die on me!” in a film trying to be politically aware and relevant is a recipe for disaster. In a satire that kind of pointed lameness could work, but in something that attempts to highlight war crimes of recent memory, it just jars heavily.

The plot is solid enough, and starts out pretty well. Thomas Anders is a near shell-shocked war journalist travelling from hellhole to hellhole to let people know what is happening. Frequently meeting up with other war correspondents, the camaraderie they share, and the dark humour they employ to survive is well handled and very believable. Then Thomas and Sebastian get stuck in a village under attack and they film the Russian militia forces executing old women and men. The Russians want the footage, and so they’re men on the run with some of the Georgian army aiding them in trying to escape. It’s here that the film shifts from war correspondent story to action movie. The footage is a McGuffin. On paper this might have seemed like a fairly nifty way to craft an action narrative into a serious drama but it’s realization is so hackneyed and lame that it’s kind of offensive to the serious import of what the film is talking about.

That said, in terms of action this is a very solid film, as you’d expect from Renny Harlin. He’s made some fun films over the years (notably The Long Kiss Goodnight in 1996 and Cliffhanger in 1993) and his experience shows through in the set-pieces he stages. But satisfying as these are, this is still a monumentally stupid film that hams its way through some deeply troubling and serious issues. Given that the world ignored these events when they actually unfolded, creating something highly entertaining is maybe a smart thing to do. How else will people pay attention and remember that these things actually happened? Or will the reality of the events be swept away by their generic makeover? 

5 Days Of War manages to be an entertaining film that leaves you with some very sad things to ponder, but judged on what it was trying to achieve, it’s a qualified success at best. Too cheesy to be profound and far too sad to be this cheesy it doesn’t entirely work and the overall effect is unfortunately muted.




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