Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The weapons aren't real, but the battle feels genuine

  • Print
Samaritan Entertainment
Skinner (Michael Friend) on the battlefield in I Declare War.

Enlarge Image

Samaritan Entertainment Skinner (Michael Friend) on the battlefield in I Declare War.

IN the guise of a preacher, comedian David Steinberg once delivered a comedy sermon that ended with an inspirational story of witnessing children of various races and ethnicities banding together... to beat an old man to a pulp.

The punchline: "Now if these little children could learn to play together..."

A similar thread of dark humour and juvie violence cuts through the Canadian film I Declare War, in which an assortment of culturally diverse kids about 13 years of age are playing a war game, Capture the Flag, in a bucolic forest. They are armed with sticks instead of guns and water balloons instead of grenades. But even if the firepower is more imagined than real, the conflict takes on queasy overtones of reality when the war, predictably, starts to get out of hand.

The general of one group is P.K. (Gage Munro). He may not look impressive with his diminutive stature and his braces. But he is a formidable tactician, and he has never lost a game. His attitude is worthy of his hero, George Patton. ("This is war, man, not f -- hopscotch.")

His rival, Quinn (Aidan Gouveia), is looking to break P.K.'s winning streak with the aid of an admirer, Jess (Mackenzie Munro), the only girl in the game, and the only participant whose fantasies aren't of a violent nature.

Too bad for Quinn, he has an aggressive underling named Skinner (Michael Friend) who stages a coup. Skinner isn't simply out to win for the strategic joy. For him, winning is personal. And his passion is such that he is not above torturing their hostage, Kwon (Siam Yu), because he happens to be P.K.'s best friend. (As Skinner calls out his instructions -- "Indian burn! Charley horse!" -- one is reminded how "enhanced interrogation" is a skill learned early.)

At times, Lapeyre's script resembles a war movie with various characters taking on the characteristics of genre stereotypes: the religious guy, the joker, the silent warrior.

But the film doesn't really take the expected route of Lord of the Flies-style atavism in which the kids descend into savagery. The movie makes a bolder gambit of suggesting this is war in microcosm. The players offer up a pageant of jealousy, narcissism and sheer brutality. The character of Kwon is particularly poignant as he faces the unpleasant reality that his best friend isn't above sacrificing him if it means winning the war. Moments like this have a suggestion of timelessness about them.

In other hands, this premise might have led to some kind of juvenile adventure  à la The Goonies. But Lapeyre and Wilson aspire to something more resonant, along the lines of René Clément's 1952 film Forbidden Games, in which the fanciful games of a pair of children in postwar France take on the qualities of their bitter reality.

I Declare War may lack that film's artistry, but its ambitions are high and its implications are thought-provoking.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Other voices

Excerpts of reviews of I Declare War:

The picture disturbs more than it amuses, but the overall effect is ultimately as scattershot as the ammo.

-- Peter Howell, Toronto Star

 

It's no small feat for the audacity of I Declare War's premise -- presenting an afterschool game of war in a way that looks and feels as real to viewers as it does to the youngsters in the thick of it -- to be matched by the cunning of its execution.

-- Jason Anderson, The Grid

 

A sometimes chilling, heavy-headed allegory about kids and conflict, and sometimes an amusing send-up of war movie clichés.

-- Roger Moore, Movie Nation

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 24, 2013 D7

History

Updated on Friday, May 24, 2013 at 8:50 AM CDT: corrects spelling of Lapeyre, adds fact box

10:17 AM: corrects spelling of René Clément

12:39 PM: fixes typos

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Steve Ashton comments on bid for NDP leadership

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A golfer looks for his ball in a water trap at John Blumberg Golf Course Friday afternoon as geese and goslings run for safety- See Joe Bryksa’s 30 day goose challenge- Day 24– June 15, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A Canada goose flies towards the sun near the Perimeter Highway North and Main St Monday afternoon – See Day 10 for Bryksa’s 30 goose project - May 11, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What's your take on the Jets so far this season?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google