I blame @MelesMeles and @anonymgeist for mentioning this movie in another thread. My eyes just kind of glided past what they said, catching on anonymgeist saying something about it being “intense”. So I tracked it down, which was easy enough, since it’s a 2014 release starring no one I’ve ever heard of and directed by a first- (and only-) time director. Easy two dollar rental. Heck, it’s free if I put up with commercials (I’m not having commercials in my war movie!).
What could go wrong?
Well, everything because this isn’t what I was expecting. I think I was hoping for a war movie about good people fighting and suffering and dying to further an important cause. It’s what I was in the mood for. I know, I know, it’s Afghanistan, but I’ll take what I can get. Besides, how good can this possibly be if it stars no one famous and was directed by someone who hasn’t made another movie since 2014.
So the first thing that strikes me as I’m watching is that a) hey, this is a group of good actors and the director is doing a great job capturing day-to-day life at a remote outpost. The second thing to occurs to me is that b) I know nothing about the actual events that inspired this movie. So as the movie is unfolding, I have no idea what is going to happen, and it’s pretty intense, because I know something is going to happen otherwise they wouldn’t have made a movie about it. I mean, Jarhead and Generation Kill are great and all, but you can only get away with that “war is dull” angle so many times. I’m pretty sure this is not going to be that.
And it’s not. Furthermore, it’s not even about what I think of when I think of war, because it’s more senseless and absurd and shocking than that.
I’ve been reading high-level stuff about the Civil War lately, about how the Lincoln administration handled the unfolding crisis, and when I think of the Civil War, I always think back to reading a book called Solidering, which is the diary of a Union soldier. He took a bullet through the cheek, which was a fairly innocuous wound, but when he got up to go to the medical tent, he took another bullet through the leg that shunted him directly into the horrors of battlefield medicine. So a lot of his diary is about how the wounded fared back in the 19th century, and it’s utterly horrific. And that’s what war is: a crisis erupts and now a bunch of boys have to stand around in the path of dangerous projectiles that do irreparable harm and then they get jammed up against the limits of medical technology. That’s the low-level look at war and it’s vicious and meaningless, but a vital counterpoint to high-level looks at war.
And that’s what Kajaki is about. It’s as low-level and meaningless and absurd and especially cruel as you can get. It is a horror movie more than a war movie, because it’s an example of war reduced to nothing more than boys subjected to unimaginable violence. It could be Afghanistan, Gettysberg, or Mariupol.
So you probably shouldn’t watch this. But if you want a unique experience, watch it knowing nothing more than what I’ve told you in this post. Don’t even read a synopsis. Go in blind, like the characters in the movie, like the actual soldiers deployed to Afghanistan. And then come back and join the conversation under this post.
Alternatively, and perhaps more wisely, read up on this and decide whether you feel like subjecting yourself to it.