5 Days of War (2011)
“Their only weapon is the truth.”
Director: Renny Harlin
Cast: Rupert Friend, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Richard Coyle
Synopsis:A drama set centered around the war between Russia and Georgia, and focused on an American journalist, his cameraman, and a Georgian native who become caught in the crossfire.
There seems to be some unwritten movie-making rule which stipulates that any movie about war reporters must contain a scene in which a group of these reporters sits in some hotel bar sharing gallows humour prior to the real meat of the story being reached. Renny Harlin’s somewhat biased view of the brief war between Georgia and Russia makes sure to include this scene, introducing us to the usual ragged group of hard-drinking, chain-smoking journo’s who will drift in and out of the lives of our two protagonists as they run around the country gathering news in which nobody seems interested — the war has the bad timing to begin at the same time as the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics — and trying not to get blown up or shot.
Our chief protagonist is Thomas Anders (Rupert Friend), a war journalist who takes a sabbatical from his job after an episode in Iraq which saw his fellow reporter and girlfriend (Heather Graham) killed. He’s enticed back into the game by another reporter known as The Dutchman (Val Kilmer) who gleefully informs him about the war about to take off in Georgia. The Russians are coming, apparently, despite the best preventative efforts of tie-munching, peace-loving Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili (Andy Garcia), and The Dutchman wants Thomas to get in on the action, and Thomas feels the time is right to return to work. His sidekick is cameraman Sebastian Ganz (Richard Coyle), and before you know it the two of them are sitting in that bar cracking jokes with their fellow journalists.
While travelling towards the centre of the action, Thomas and Sebastian stop off at a village to meet their escort. There’s a wedding taking place, something which Russian fighter jets clearly see as a threat, judging by the way they seem to target the celebrations, killing many of the guests as well as the journalists’ escort. While aiding the victims of this bombing, Thomas and Sebastian make the acquaintance of Tatia Meddevi (Emmanuelle Chriqui), who has become separated from her sister (Ana Imnadze), who is the bride, and her father (Mikheil Gomiashvili). Tatia agrees to serve as their interpreter in return for help locating her family. They quickly locate Tatia’s family in a nearby village, but only just ahead of invading mercenaries and separatists. Thomas and his group manage to avoid being rounded up with the rest of the villagers by these invaders, but hang around long enough to film the acts of atrocity that are subsequently committed. The trick then is to ensure that the brutal images recorded are transmitted to a largely uncaring world without first being killed by the Russians.
Setting aside the politics of the conflict, which are undoubtedly less clear cut than portrayed in 5 Days of War, there’s no doubt that this movie is strongly biased in favour of the Georgians — which might have something to do with the fact that it was heavily financed by that country. Of course, the danger — and intention – of movies like this is that audiences unfamiliar with the topic might unquestioningly accept what they see as fact — particularly when the movie contains one of those ‘based on real events’ precursors. In that respect, it’s difficult to forgive 5 Days of War — even though it’s guilty of nothing more heinous than the type of propaganda Hollywood pumped out in the 1940s — but if one can ignore its propagandistic elements, it delivers a potent action experience which is expertly directed by a proven veteran of the genre. The dialogue is clunky, and the conclusion would be risible even if the film were making no spurious claims to be based on fact, but the set pieces are spectacularly staged, and after a slow beginning, Mikko Alanne’s script draws us in and carries us along with a succession of tense situations. Whether you can set aside your resentment at being spoon-fed such one-sided propaganda in the name of entertainment will go a long way to determining whether you enjoy 5 Days of War or not.