By Anna Power, Film Editor @TLE_film
Few films depict the real horror of war like Kajaki. The True Story. So realistic is the carnage that the film moves into trailblazer territory, taking the war film genre and catapulting it into brave new terrain. It’s a visceral and shockingly authentic portrayal of a British unit’s experience of the Afghanistan war. The film’s release too is a timely one, wedged between Remembrance Sunday and the WW1 Centenary, a poignant and fitting reminder of the sheer brutality of war, the senseless cost to human life as well as the terrific bravery of soldiers caught up in situations of unimaginable terror.
Kajaki takes place during a single day, the 6th September 2006, known as ‘The Day of Days’, when soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (3 Para) stationed on their dusty mountain top vantage point, dispatch a routine patrol to investigate a potential Taliban roadblock and literally stumble upon an unmarked minefield in a dried out riverbed. The first explosion and gory casualty ushers in a rescue party who quickly realise the gravity of their own position; the area is clearly a deathtrap riddled with landmines, where the slightest movement could detonate a potentially fatal explosion. What follows is an acutely intense, nerve-splitting re-telling of events, superbly acted by its sterling young British cast, with special mention to its two leads Mark Stanley as the unit’s medic ‘Tug’ (pictured above) and David Elliot as courageous, charismatic Corporal Mark Wright.
A first time feature for Director Paul Katis, who skillfully creates a vivid impression of the humdrum lives of the soldiers as they carry out their duties, passing time by playing makeshift games and enduring both boredom and the tedious heat of the Afghan sun before the action and tension builds to suffocating heights. Katis too, is uncompromising in his use of strong regional accents, Scottish, Lancashire and the West Country to name a few, which once attuned to, reward us with superbly authentic, scintillating, caustic soldiers’ banter that adds a darkly humorous, heartwarming depth to the men, that resonates on a deeply human level.
Kajaki despite being about a modern and for some, contentious War, avoids political statement, instead remaining objective in its rendering of a faithful version of events with heart, passion and a firm commitment to conveying the soldiers’ stories. This detached position is aided by the sheer absence of actual conflict. Apart from a brief exchange of friendly fire, the drama takes place with the absence of an enemy, the mines are merely incendiary Russian relics left behind by a previous invading army, from a war, long forgotten; a heavy sense of pathos that does not go unnoticed.
The credit sequence allows this impartiality to slip slightly with a slightly gushing heroes roll call, that feels incongruous with the sober tone of the rest of the film; a minor point.
Kajaki is an extraordinary film, at times so truly harrowing that its intensity is almost too much to bear. It is however, an impressive and powerful piece of British filmmaking and well worth seeing.
The film is on release from November 28th.