Monday, June 29, 2015

Film Review: Kajaki (2014)

Copyright: Alchemy Releasing
To a degree, it is safe to expect a significant level of brutality from a war film. Last year, Fury managed to shock me to the core, even though I thought I was desensitized to the Hollywood-type depiction of modern-day combat, especially for those films that are set in the WW2.

Kajaki is also a brutal film, but not in the sense that it presents the physical suffering of its characters (even though there is plenty of that as well), but because it shows the terrifying virtual environment where minds and bodies can exist in a parallel dimension of pure horror, but which is determined not by physical laws, but by a decision of some individual or a group of individuals which declared that a war is worth fighting for.

In the case of Kajaki movie, that imaginary environment is a valley in Afghanistan, where a detachment of soldiers ends up getting bogged down not by enemy fire, but by forgotten cluster of landmines. Here, their options are fenced in by the physical reality of the mines and the responsibility they feel for each other. In this setup, located on a space smaller than a surface of a larger house, completely in the open, the characters suffer, risk life and limb and make choices under the Afghan sun.

The film’s director Paul Katis explores the spaces of both the landscape and the minds of those who linger on in this deadly afternoon, some because they do not have legs to walk away on, others because they do not have the heart to leave the wounded behind. Kajaki narrative is so masochistically to its characters (even though it is based on actual events and depicts them truthfully) that the audience has to be appalled to some extent. Here, there are no bad guys getting killed and no civilians getting saved like in the Lone Survivor, another true tale from the same land. Almost like a pseudo-religious experience of martyrdom, the film shows what war can mean when dying is pointless (from a geopolitical point of view) and being a hero makes you one of the victims in a split second.

Kajaki is a brutal piece about war and we need films like these badly. It shows us what happens when reality does not follow a flag-waving narrative about the glories of combat and simply serves meaningless misery upon all those who happen to be in a wrong place.


  1. It's everything you have stated, and more. The script is as true as those who were there will testify, not based on, but a true account taken from the statements of those soldiers on what has become known as 'The Day of Days'. You go from soldier to hero in minutes, the film depicts the strength of character drilled into our service men and women from day one of their basic training. They are not fighting for Queen and Country but fir their mates.

    This is a very well written, produced and directed movie superbly acted by a relatively unknown cast. You will be glued to the screen, you will laugh, shriek in horror and maybe even cry as the events unfold. This film stays in your head for weeks and helps you fill in the gap between seeing forces being deployed and those returning home either to the arms of their loved ones or in too many cases driven through the streets of Royal Wootton Bassett.

    1. Yes, the film definitely stays with the viewer. Like you mentioned (if I'm reading into your comment correctly), the notion of being free of any political message is probably one of the strongest suits of the film.

      Of course, I can only start to imagine (badly at that) how the film might feel for those who went through a similar experience in their life.