No Man’s Land

No Man's Land

We’re all in the same shit now.

As I mentioned in my recent review of Kippur, war films are a dime a dozen, on the list or otherwise. Frankly, I think I’ve seen just about all that war in cinema can give me, and everything I have yet to see is basically retreads or other imaginings of the same material that I have seen. However, that doesn’t mean the films in question are poor, or not worth your time; especially if you haven’t binged on war films in the recent past. Danis Tanovic’s No Man’s Land is a great example of such a film. It’s really nothing new, but it still managed to be unique enough to hold my attention.

The war profiled here is the Bosnian War, and “no man’s land”, for those who are unaware of the term, refers to the uninhabitable area between the frontlines of opposing armies, in this case the native Bosnians against the Bosnian Serbs. One relief squad of one of the sides ends up massacred in a trench in between the two forces, leaving one man alive and wounded. A two-man patrol from the opposing side is sent to the trench to investigate, where the surviving member, Ciki, ends up shooting one of the men dead and wounding the other, a new recruit named Nino. The two men from opposing sides are now stuck together in the trench in no man’s land, and must try and figure out how to get help so that they may be saved, all while having to deal with each other. The evolving dichotomy between the two men is the main selling point, but weirdly enough, it’s not really the main focus of the film. After we are introduced to each man and they are placed in their conflict, we then spend much of the time with the opposing forces as they figure out what to do with the men, leading up into a UN intervention that tries to do the same. Thus, the focus of the second half of the film becomes the geopolitical relations of the UN, as well as an expose on the chain of command issues such an organization is forced to deal with in a situation such as this. While this would make the film seem to be a little all over the place, not keeping its focus on the main subject at hand, the film is still surprisingly cohesive; it never feels like we are watching two films mashed together. There is also a complete lack of a musical score throughout the entire film, which for once didn’t make the film feel dead and lifeless, with no emotion; it kept the realism and natural tension of the scenario at the peak it needed to be.

As I hinted at in the opener, I liked this one, and I had prepared myself to merely endure yet another war film from the list. Really, though, that’s what this is; yet another war film from the list, but it was still interesting, and different enough that it didn’t feel like we were treading ground that had already been trodden enough. What helped, I’m sure, was that the film didn’t look like a war film, even the new neo-war look that Saving Private Ryan has originated; the opening sequence of the relief squad trying to make their way through the fog aside. I didn’t really know what to say about this one; there was little to be said, but I still felt I owed the film a little something for not meeting my dour expectations for it. Give this a try; who knows, you might like it.

Arbitrary Rating: 7/10

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