6:50 am EST, September 24, 2015

Why Denmark’s Oscar-contender ‘A War’ is worth your attention

Denmark has submitted A War for the 2016 Oscars’ Foreign Language category. Here’s why it’s worth your time.

The Danish submission for the 88th Academy Awards has been revealed: A War beat out Men & Chicken and The Look of Silence for the honor, and will be competing in the Foreign Language category in February 2016.

“Foreign language?” I hear you mutter. “Does that mean I’ll have to read?” And, yeah, it does, but there are plenty of reasons to get past your subtitle anxiety and give this movie a chance.

Here’s what makes A War worth watching:

Familiar faces

Pilou Asbæk

A War (Krigen in Danish) stars Pilou Asbæk, whose name should ring a bell with Game of Thrones fans. Asbæk will be playing Euron Greyjoy in the sixth season of the HBO series, following in the footsteps of fellow Danes Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Dar Salim and Birgitte Hjort Sørensen.

Asbæk plays an army commander in the Afghan war, whose actions on the battlefield have huge repercussions for both his fellow soldiers, and his family back in Denmark. His performance in A War is unlike anything he’s ever done: he’s our entry point into a morally ambiguous, conflicting narrative, and we emerge after the end credits feeling like we’ve been experiencing it all right along with him.

Denmark is kind of all the rage right now, nbd

The Danish Girl

The movie takes place both in Afghanistan and Denmark, and at this point, the Danish locations should be somewhat familiar to international audiences.

Related: Eddie Redmayne is transgender woman Lili Elbe in first Danish Girl trailer

Not only have cult Scandinavian shows like Borgen (also starring Pilou Asbæk) and The Bridge made their way around the world, but the upcoming The Danish Girl (starring Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander) was shot in Copenhagen.

The director is awesome

A War

A War director Tobias Lindholm is fairly new to the scene, but he did co-write the script to the 2014 Danish Oscar contender The Hunt, which stars Hannibal‘s Mads Mikkelsen.

Lindholm has previously directed A Highjacking and R, and wrote April 9th — all of which starred Pilou Asbæk. (You’d think Danish directors always cast the same actors in their movies… and you’d be right.)

A War is Lindholm’s best work by far, as heavy and hard to watch as you’d expect from a post-Dogme, documentary-inspired director. He recruited actual Danish Afghanistan veterans, Afghani refugees and Taliban warriors for what becomes almost a quasi-documentary itself, lending even more credibility to the already uncomfortable, gritty narrative.

The ‘War’ itself

Krigen

Of course a great director, cast and location can only get you so far. But A War deserves all the praise it’s getting, because it’s just a damn good movie.

A War is gritty, terrifying, and way more realistic than it has any right to be. Unlike most war movies, that alternate between the glory and gruesomeness of battle, A War is all about the psychological trauma experienced both by soldiers, and the family and friends they leave behind. Even in movies you don’t always get to be the hero of your own story, and sometimes, the choices you make have terrible consequences.

No one wants to see a realistic, imperfect depiction of what happens when you go to war, and yet it’s so, so important that these stories are told. A War is a powerful film, exploring an almost taboo topic (the fact that the war doesn’t end when you go home), and it is absolutely worth your time.

‘A War’ premiered earlier this month at the Venice film festival

Check out a trailer for the movie below:

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