"The First Casualty of War Is Truth"
5 DAYS OF WAR is a gut-wrenching war movie about two American journalists’ quest to transmit vital information about the brief but bloody war that took place between Russia and Georgia at the same time as the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Throughout the movie, Director Renny Harlin tries to deliver a strong anti-war message by showing the many tragedies of war – of people who lose their houses, their sons, their daughters, their relatives, and everything they know – through the point of view of American television journalist Thomas Anders and his cameraman Sebastian Ganz, trapped in the heart of the conflict.
According to one of the producers, many scenes recreate historical events that took place during the actual conflict. In fact, Harlin traveled to Georgia several times before production began to speak with reporters who had experienced the war on the ground, visit the actual battlegrounds and gather stories from Georgian survivors and witnesses.
In the opening scene, Anders and Ganz are ambushed in Iraq during the 2007 U.S.-led conflict. Anders’s girlfriend and colleague, Miriam, dies in a violent and graphic attack scene. The two men, meanwhile, are rescued by Captain Avaliani, a Georgian officer, who plays an important part later in the movie.
A year later, Anders watches television as Russian troops enter Georgia over a dispute about the enclave of South Ossetia. Georgian President Saakashvili pleads for peace. In this sense, the movie is slightly biased (although it does not attempt to conceal its bias), as the events surrounding the entry of Russian troops into South Ossetia are highly debated, and may even have involved prior aggression by Georgia itself on Russian soil. (South Ossetia has in fact a dense population of Russian inhabitants, and the sovereignty of the state is also a contentious subject.) Viewers are therefore advised not to view FIVE DAYS OF WAR as an unbiased retelling of history. The movie is stridently anti-Russian, no doubt in an attempt to redress a perceived imbalance of pro-Russian news coverage (or complete lack of coverage) during the war.
The movie’s forte, nonetheless, is the depiction of the cruelty and havoc of war, tearing families apart and destroying the otherwise serene beauty of the Ossetian countryside. In a pivotal moment, Anders and Ganz witness a militia hired by the Russians to do their dirty work ransack villages while murdering and raping the inhabitants. Having captured the whole sordid affair on camera, the journalists set out to do whatever it takes to get the truth out to the rest of the world, which seems to be so preoccupied with the Beijing Olympics that they pay little heed to the raging conflict.
Although this movie is not perfect, it achieves what it sets out to do: draw the world’s (and especially, we sense, the Western world’s) attention to the devastation of war to which we can too easily turn a blind eye because it’s happening so far from home. Harlin delivers an exciting, provocative and at times moving feature, followed by heart-wrenching real-life testimonies by family members who experienced the war first-hand. If the movie remains pro-Georgian, no pro-Russian explanation can truly explain away the chilling horror of one witness, who was told by the Red Cross that her “husband was buried in [their] garden. He had been hanged.” Indeed, as one of the characters reminds viewers, “The first casualty of war is truth.”
Mature audiences will no doubt be deeply moved by 5 DAYS OF WAR. However, MOVIEGUIDE ® advises caution for graphic violence, language and some troubling, intense events and situations. Not for the faint hearted, and definitely not for children, 5 DAYS OF WAR is nevertheless a riveting movie torn from pages of history.
(BBB, CC, RH, LL, VVV, AA, DD, M) Very strong moral worldview with positive references to God (e.g., “God be with you”) and extensive portrayal of Orthodox Christian icons as well as scenes shot in Georgian churches, although there is no explicit talk of one’s ultimate salvation, mild revisionist history of the origins of the conflict between Russia and Georgia in 2008, but the movie does not hide its pro-Georgia bias; 22 obscenities and 1 profanity; very strong, graphic war violence including gruesome, bloody scenes of journalists and civilians blown up or shot in the midst of action as well as execution killings of civilians by militia, men on fire, gunshot wounds, plus many explosions; implied rape off screen; no nudity; drinking, mostly in pubs but occasionally by the protagonist sitting alone; smoking; and militia killing civilians trying to escape (and the implied raping of civilian women off-screen), an elderly Georgian lies and betrays American journalists to save his own neck, and movie draws attention to Georgia’s involvement in the U.S. intervention in Iraq while revealing the U.S. and other superpowers’ decision not to come to Georgia’s aid after the Russians attacked Georgia.
5 DAYS OF WAR is a gut-wrenching war movie about the brief but bloody war that took place between Russia and Georgia at the same time as the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Two American journalists, Thomas and Sebastian, are ambushed in Iraq in 2007. Thomas’ girlfriend and colleague dies in a violent, graphic attack scene. Meanwhile, a Georgian officer rescues the two men. A year later, Thomas watches television as Russian troops enter Georgia over a dispute about the enclave of South Ossetia. Thomas and Sebastian go to cover the war. There, they witness atrocities by a militia hired by the Russians. Having captured the sordid affair on camera, the journalists try to get the truth out to the world.
The strength of 5 DAYS OF WAR is its ability to depict the cruelty and havoc of war, tearing families apart and destroying the otherwise serene beauty of the Georgian countryside. Director Renny Harlin delivers an exciting, provocative and poignant movie, including heart-wrenching real-life testimonies of family members who experienced the war first-hand. There’s some very strong violence and foul language, however, so extreme caution is advised for 5 DAYS OF WAR.