Every once in a while a film will come along with such a ludicrous idea done so well that it’s able to skate by on the idea alone as opposed to any overall logic that you can apply as to how it actually makes that idea whole. I Declare War is that movie and more.
I Declare War is about a group of children playing a game of war one afternoon. This game of war is unlike many others we’ve seen. The rules are set out very clearly and it’s taken deadly seriously. PK (Gage Munroe) is undefeated as a general and is in for a different kind of game as Skinner (Michael Friend) takes control of the other team in a liberal fashion with the rules.
It becomes apparent throughout the film that these children are walking around with sticks as pistols, rifles and bazookas as well as water balloons as grenades that we are taking a walk into the world of a child’s completely unadulterated imagination; and this is amazing for it. It makes the imagery of watching a child point an automatic rifle right up to another okay. At the same time however, we begin to slowly become less okay with it as we are made to watch Skinner imprison and torture Kwon (Slam Yu). There’s a part of your brain which has now accepted all these levels of violence of just children playing and imagining violence, but another part of yours has yet to be shown the real version of this torture we see and is therefore trying to figure out if this is a play or not. Is Kwon being tortured? Is that knife real? This in itself creates the dynamic tension that the film needed to make it more than just a fun game and nothing else.
Now with a task at hand we see all the soldiers at work and the film just revels in it’s own madness. Part of why a film like this works isn’t just the fun level of watching children playing, but it’s how serious these children take it. PK happens to be a big war buff and overly knowledgeable on previous battles and where the history and the tactics come into play. We even hear him mention his love for the film Patton — a great movie — and wanting to watch it again.
While the thought of this film sounds like a great ten minute short the filmmakers, Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson, did well to keep things going by making the character drama effectively expressed. After spending an hour with Kwon in the care of Skinner and PK trying to win the game we become embroiled in each of their successes. There’s a definite good and bad guy and everyone knows who to root for but the dynamics between these characters quickly changes allowing for a lot of empathy from the audience to be invested in all of them.
Is war just for the grown ups? Is it more than the strain of battle? Do all children face war everytime the head outside to just say hi to their friends?
Regardless this is one fun game of capture the flag and I wish I was in this kind of game when I was young.