Director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2) returns to the big screen with 5 Days of War, which offers tons of explosions and battle sequences. 5 Days covers the events of the 2008 Russian-Georgia War through the eyes of Thomas Anders (Rupert Friend), an American war correspondent. And though the action is entertaining, because the true story is far more complex than the film, it suffers from some misleading information about an important event in history.

The Players:

  • Directed by: Renny Harlin
  • Written by: Mikko Alanne (screenplay), David Battle (based on a screenplay by)
  • Stars: Rupert Friend, Richard Coyle, Val Kilmer, Andy Garcia
  • Music by: Trevor Rabin
  • Cinematography by: Checco Varese

Plot:

An American war correspondent, his cameraman, and a young Georgia native are unintentionally at ground zero during the first Russian airstrikes against Georgia at the start of 2008′s five-day war between Russia and the Georgian Republic. As panic sets in, the three try to escape to safety only to witness – and film – attacks, explosions and the execution of many innocent civilians.

The Good:

  • Action/Adventure: Harlin knows how to put together kick-ass battle scenes and he wastes no time jumping right into the action. In the first few minutes the central characters are caught in a crossfire, which sets the frenetic tone of the film. The film is virtually non-stop action -  and the characters are always running and on-the-go because there’s no time to sit down and chat with air-strikes and bombs going off every few minutes. Character development is done through the action, which works well because the film is structured around five days of non-stop war (hence the title).
  • Richard Coyle: Though the film has good performances, it’s Richard Coyle that really pops. As Friend’s British sidekick and cameraman, the character’s unapologetic personality could have been one-dimensional and annoying, but Coyle creates a character that is both likable and funny. It’s a star-making performance.
  • Andy Garcia’s Speech: Playing the part of Georgia president Saakashvili is Andy Garcia. He plays a small, but crucial role in the film. One of the best scenes in the entire film comes at the end when he delivers a powerful speech in front of Georgians (these were real Georgian extras). It’s admirable to see Garcia get deeply emotional in front of so many people.
  • The Anti-War Message: Though the Georgian soldiers are portrayed as brave and heroic, they are never celebrated for their actions. If the film is limited by only giving one side of the story, it still manages to put forth an anti-war message by showing how innocent civilians are tortured and killed in front of their families. These scenes may be hard to watch, but it’s with the intention of showing that war is ugly and heartless regardless of who is right or wrong.
  • The Real People: The end of the film offers documentary footage of the real survivors talking about the relatives they lost. Most of them are brought to tears when retelling their stories, and it’s hard not to join them – that kind of real pain cannot be faked.

The Bad:

  • Val Kilmer: Kilmer plays the part of the Dutchman, a veteran war journalist who encourages Anders to join him in Georgia (he does this through video chat, while taking a bubbly bath). He’s only seen a few times throughout the film, and each time he’s making goofy comments that make his character annoying. Being a guy who’s covered many wars, he could have served as as interesting mentor or father figure to Anders. Though this could be a fault on the writers and not him. Still, he’s easily replaceable.
  • One-sided Angle: Though the film is decidedly anti-war, Harlin’s version of the 2008 Russia-Georgia War is decidedly pro-Georgia. Here, Georgian military is heroic and their actions are only to save their country from the evil Russians, while the Russians are heartless criminals and are dressed in guerrilla uniforms and covered in tattoos. This film suggests that  Georgia had no fault in this war, even though Human Rights Watch released a comprehensive and lengthy report that concluded both sides were at fault. On top of that, the American media also gets a share of the blame. The main character struggles to find a network who would broadcast his footage – all anyone cares about is the Beijing Olympics. The message here is clear – Georgia was abandoned by the world and left to rot in the hands of cold-blooded killers.

Overall:

5 Days of War‘s message is lost in its propaganda, which is too bad because it does deliver awesome battle sequences and explosions. It just could have been so much more.

Rating: 6/10

5 Days of War is available in select theaters now.

Trailer:

5 Days of War is in theaters September 2, 2011.