Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile Previous Previous Next Next
I Declare War - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
I Declare War
Directing: B
Acting: B-
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B
Editing: B-

I Declare War seems to think it has Something Significant To Say. Exactly what it has to say, I'm not quite sure. Admittedly it impressively avoids the trap of gimmickry, given its concept: the only actors ever seen onscreen are all young teenagers, even though it explores some pretty adult themes. Reviews all over the place are comparing this film to Lord of the Flies, but there really is a key difference: That novel is decades old and still talked about. Even one decade from now, no one is going to remember I Declare War. Honestly people aren't going to remember this movie next week, let alone any number of years from now.

That's not for lack of trying, and I'll give writer and co-director Jason Lapeyre credit for effort. At the very least, there's something undeniably fascinating about this story.

The film opens with a brief animated sequence explaining the rules of the game of "War" that these young kids are playing in the woods. This film is 94 minutes long, and it only ever concerns itself with this game; we never get any glimpse of these kids' parents, or even their personal lives outside the game. The closest we get are the brief references the kids occasionally make to their home lives, and even then we can't trust what they're saying; in all likelihood, whatever they're saying is only in service to attempting to win the game.

The kids all carry weapons. Not real ones; imaginary ones -- but the movie turns their imagination into reality, so we often see what appears to be actual guns or grenades in their hands. But, if a kid gets pelted with a grenade, it's really just a water balloon filled with red paint. There's no genuine violence in this movie -- only the vivid imagining of it on the part of these kids.

I had a hard time gauging exactly how old these kids were supposed to be. Young teenagers, presumably. KP, the leader of one team who is evidently long undefeated, is played by Gage Munroe, who is 14. What 14-year-olds these days spend their entire summer days out in the woods without so much as a smart phone? To be fair -- sort of -- Munroe looks younger than 14, and Siam Young, who plays his best friend Kwon, looks even younger. Still, there's a certain lack of authenticity here -- something completely absent from, say, Lord of the Flies, which presented a wholly realistic take on the nature of young boys in the context of its time.

There's also the very common issue of acting ability for child actors. It's very rare for child actors to have a truly convincing, naturalistic performance. The kids in this movie are clearly serious about their craft, but they are also clearly acting. Onscreen, without exception, they don't come across as real kids playing pretend, but rather as actors playing kids playing pretend.

Still, the story intermittently commands attention. There's something about how seriously these kids take the game they're playing, which at times crosses over to real-world dangers due to physical threats against each other. It's like we're observing the adults these kids are destined to become, which is probably the point. Too bad that point isn't quite as subtle, or as tightly polished, as it could be.

Gage Munroe lets the game get to his head in I DECLARE WAR.

Overall: B-
Leave a comment