“From the director of Mindhunters” is probably not information you’d see on a poster for a film such as this, considering Renny Harlin’s stock has seen an appreciable dive in the last decade. If the kafuffle surrounding the Exorcist prequel wasn’t enough, he then went and did The Covenant, which was a pretty mundane version of The Craft, except with boys instead of girls. He hasn’t stopped working, but the glory days of Cliffhanger and Die Hard 2 must seem a distant memory now.
5 Days of War is set during the South Ossetia War in 2008, and follows a bunch of war correspondents as they attempt to broadcast footage of the atrocities committed to a world that’s more interested in the Beijing Olympics than hearing about some Eastern European conflict.
The film gets out to an impressive start with a thrilling action sequence. In fact, all the explosive scenes are filled with a striking kinetic grace. This doesn’t come as a surprise, considering that the director of The Long Kiss Goodnight was calling the shots. The problem, however, begins when one realises that the film is also attempting to sombrely honour those who lost their lives in the conflict (and war correspondents generally). This dichotomy of balls-out action movie meets solemn condemnation of war simply cannot sit well. If you’re in any doubt, consider the fact that 5 Days of War contains face-to-camera segments of victim’s families, detailing the plight of their loved ones, yet also features our hero reporter walking away from an exploding building in slow motion without batting an eyelid. It just doesn’t gel.
5 Days of War is entertaining, but only if you manage to mentally separate these disparate elements, otherwise it just ends up being Schindler’s List meets Collateral Damage. To mix the thoughtful with the explosive isn’t unheard of, and in fact 2007’s The Kingdom succeeded in this, though only just. It was certainly more successful in educating its viewers as to the wider ramifications of the conflicts we see given only passing mention on the news. Harlin doesn’t achieve this nuance.
Rupert Friend is passable in the leading role, but the screenplay is the main culprit behind this shoddy piece of filmmaking – whilst trying to provoke our sympathies as to the plight of the Georgian people, the script has Val Kilmer proudly proclaiming that war is like a “toothless whore”. Andy Garcia is even less convincing as the President of Georgia, partly because his accent doesn’t hold up.
At the end of the day, 5 Days of War’s conflicting narrative doesn’t amount to much. It is a passable piece of entertainment, however.Rating: