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Movie Breakdown: I Declare War (Noah)

July 26, 2013


People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing lead us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

This movie made some decent waves on the festival circuit before being picked up by Drafthouse Films. Regardless, I struggle with kid actors as much as I struggle with any part of any movie and this is just a big roiling, amateur lump of them.

The Reality:

I was the king of playing War when I was little. We called it Fantasyland and it usually involved laser guns, chainsaw swords and the search for a mystical object that some eight-headed monster was lording over. I Declare War is the filmic version of this, a compact story about a bunch of kids playing War in the woods outside their house and the intense emotions/relationships that stem from it. As a veteran of this sort of fantastical war I can say outright that what I Declare War gets spot on is the earnest emotion of these sorts of games. With a cast of, eek, amateur kid actors directors Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson ably show the blood, sweat, and emotional hyperbole that lie at the center of why these games were fun when we were little. The trick of the film is of course that these kids are using wooden toys, but visually the toys are represented by actual pistols, rifles and grenades. It’s a neat visual trick that allows the film to deal, ever-so-slightly with the effect of violence on children and use the sight of young kids with pistols as a creepy side-effect. There was something about the film that I just never grabbed on to. These are young actors, 11 to 13 and so often you can feel them reading off the script or imagining what some other actor in actual war movie acted like and then just impersonating that. It’s funny because a film about a search for a different reality is actually hampered by how unreal it feels.

The Lesson:

Your kids are doing bad things in the woods.

I Declare War is out on VOD now.

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