Kajaki - The True Story Review: Could This Be The Best War Film Of The Year?

Yet more proof that British cinema's take on Afghanistan leaves Hollywood's in the shade.

Rating: ˜…˜…˜…˜… Kajaki tells the horrifying true story of the events of September 6 2006 in Afghanistan. Events that would later become known as the Kajaki minefield incident. Troops from the 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment of the British Army were stationed near the Kajaki Dam in Taliban-occupied Helmand Province, when a routine reconnaissance mission took a nasty turn, as a three-man patrol stumbled into a dry riverbed, unaware it was actually an unmarked minefield. A catastrophe of errors, coupled with military bureaucracy, transformed a dangerous situation into a nightmare of hellish proportions. Gritty and realistic, the harrowing BAFTA nominated film looks and feels like The Hurt Locker, and has garnered much praise from Afghanistan veterans for its brutal authenticity. The true-life story has seen a few small changes to suit the big screen, but it remains unsanitised, completely brutal, and an accurate depiction of war in the desert waste that is Helmand Province. It's not supposed to be a Hollywood-type, over-the-top action thriller, and first-time director Paul Katis knows it. It's wonderfully shot on a shoe-string budget, but Katis keeps it grounded, and the whole film is understated. If you're looking for the action of Saving Private Ryan or Black Hawk Down, look elsewhere. The Taliban are only seen from afar and the mine blasts are no gore-fest. We only see the aftermath, and that makes it all the more chilling. Katis toys with your nerves, and revels in it. The largely unknown cast, led by David Elliot (The Club) as Corporal Mark Wright, only add to the authenticity, and put in great performances to make this the tragic thriller as realistic as it is, and the result is phenomenal. In this war film with no enemy, it's the accurate portrayal of the British troops that makes the film what it is. In between scenes of nerve-shredding terror, it's funny, even charming, as the camaraderie and spirit of the soldiers shines through even in this most desperate of situations. The first 20 minutes are a little slow, as the soldiers go about their day-to-day business around Camp Bastion, and really, this was a missed opportunity to get to know the characters better, but you'll soon forgive and forget, as once Lance Corporal Stuart Hale and his comrades enter the minefield, there is no letting up until the very end. Mark Stanley (Game of Thrones), also stars and puts in an outstanding performance as a medic who, from a position of safety, risks his life to cross the minefield to tend to the wounds of his fellow soldiers. His eyes capture the very essence of a man rattled by what is unfolding before his eyes, and his voice is that of a man trained for these moments - the full, calming influence of a field medic. It's a performance impossible to fault. Watching Kajaki, you can€™t help but realise the horrors British soldiers have to deal with. They may not face them every day, but once in a while something unexpected will happen that has the power to completely reshape the rest of their lives. The way they react to it, deal with it and move on, is truly inspiring. From the midst of chaos came an astonishing tale of bravery, courage and true heroism, as these British soldiers, led by Cpl Mark Wright, selflessly put their lives on the line to help one another. A tale of heroism in the face of extreme adversity, this is a definite must-see for anyone who wants to know what modern war really is. Intense and utterly gripping, it's the best British war thriller in years. Kajaki is released on DVD, Blu-ray and Video On Demand on 8 June 2015. Watch the trailer for Kajaki below... https://youtu.be/QbDLBhl88Og
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