An Unflinching Look At War

It is 2009 in Southern Afghanistan and fresh recruits are flown into forwarding base Armadillo as missiles fire periodically at the nearby but unseen Taliban.  Armadillo, the film, follows the six month tour of these young Danish soldiers through a conventional war movie narrative.  Optimistic and adventurous boys from the beginning become scarred and cynical veterans. Soldiers are framed to fit familiar war stereotypes such as the idealistic hero, the gung ho killer, and the sacrificial leader.    

There’s a palpable tension throughout as the cat and mouse nature of the war becomes apparent, with the stealthy enemy using ambush and roadside bombs in fighting a superior force.  The weary civilians, victims of both sides and uncooperative under death threat, best understand the situation:  “People fight because they’re poor,” says the farmer to a soldier.

Dull stretches of uneventful patrols give way to sudden explosive action as the cameraman dives from the bullets fired from a cornered enemy.  The camera is unflinching as we finally see the Taliban fighters close up as mangled corpses in pools of blood.  Media controversy erupts.  Were war crimes committed in killing wounded men?  Were the soldiers too celebratory in their victory?  The answers aren’t readily apparent in the fog of war, even under a camera’s eye.

This is as real as it gets in experiencing the horrors, confusion and adrenaline of the battlefield.

Willis Wong
Intermedias reviewer at VIFF 2010

Directed by Janus Metz
Denmark, 2010