Armed with nothing more than twigs, their imaginations and a simple set of rules, a group of 12-year-olds engaged in a lively game of Capture the Flag in the neighborhood woods start dangerously blurring the lines between make-believe and reality. Paint-filled balloons = Grenades. Trees = Control towers. Sticks = Sub-machine guns. The youthful innocence of the game gradually takes on a different tone as the quest for victory pushes the boundaries of friendship. The would-be warriors get a searing glimpse of humanity's dark side as their combat scenario takes them beyond the rules of the game and into an adventure where fantasy combat clashes with the real world.Written by
Like many fellow viewers at the Brussels International Festival of Fantastic Films that afternoon, I didn't have any clear idea on what to expect of "I Declare War". It plays at this prominent and reputedly brilliant genre festival, so it must contain some sort of significant cult value, that's for sure. But what exactly to prepare for, I didn't know Drama and valuable coming of age life lessons like in "Stand By Me"? Adventure and thrills like in "Lord of the Flies"? Or maybe something entirely unique and innovative like "War of the Buttons", or something extreme and shocking like "Battle Royale"? It became somewhat of a mixture of everything, in fact, and yet at the same time something totally new and original. Although I certainly can't state that "I Declare War" is one of the greatest and most eye-opening films ever made, I'm nevertheless very glad that I watched it and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to a wide variety of film fanatics. It's an atmospheric and occasionally very suspenseful motion picture with sublime performances from the youthful ensemble cast (not a single adult in the film) and a well-scripted scenario that thankfully doesn't get overly moralizing or metaphoric near the finale. It's summer vacation and the neighborhood boys gather every afternoon in the woods to play war. The rules are quite simple: two camps and two generals instructing their teams to capture the opponent's flag through smart tactics and ingenious war strategies. The soldiers use wooden sticks and water balloons, but through their vivid and wildly imaginative eyes we see rifles, machine guns, bazookas and grenades. Today also promises to become a special day for the troops, as there will be mutiny within the platoons, female soldiers joining for the very first time and ordeals that will genuinely put the soldiers' friendships to the test. "I Declare War" is reasonably fast-paced and benefices from terrific filming locations as well as from steady direction and – as mentioned already – stellar performances. The sound, visual and make-up effects definitely aren't childish, but neither are they provocative or graphic. In other words, this isn't just intended for physically grown-up people, but also for emotionally mature audiences largely accomplished by kids! What I appreciated most of all was that, at all times, the children remain in fact children. Their reasoning, motivations and interactions are exactly like any child of whatever origin or culture would react. That sounds logic, but it really isn't as the movie will make clear, and that's why it's such an impressive and highly recommended effort.
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