Friday 28 June 2019

100 Essential Films That Deserve More Attention - 48. Kajaki

People embrace the enchanting glow of the big screen for all manner of reasons; to journey to faraway places they could only ever imagine, to experience the escapism of a captivating story, or maybe to indulge in an obsession with the world of cinema. For me, all three of these reasons apply - and many more - but first and foremost is the satisfaction of recommending obscure films to other like-minded individuals who adopt them as their new favourites.

With over 100 years worth of films to choose from, and many of these now available at the click of a button, it can be extremely difficult to narrow your choices down to pick a film to watch. Although cinema has been around for over four times longer than my life on this earth, I have spent what some may consider an unhealthy amount of these years delving into the history of films to discover some of the best hidden gems out there.

This series of articles aims to highlight the overlooked masterpieces that I have unearthed whilst exploring the forgotten recesses of cinema. Take a gamble on any one of these films and I guarantee that you will be eagerly awaiting all future instalments in this series. You may well have heard of a number of these films; my aim isn't merely to shine a spotlight on the most obscure films out there, but to share my enjoyment of those films which don't have the cult following I believe they deserve.

Director - Paul Katis
Country - UK
Year 2014
Runtime - 108 minutes

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is a masterclass in how to create tension in a war film and is even more impressive when you consider the enemy is never shown on screen. Kajaki is a similarly intense war film based upon a true account that ratchets up the tension to unbearable levels with an unseen enemy causing havoc for a company of British soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. Whereas the fleeing English are pursued by Nazis in Dunkirk, the unseen danger in Kajaki is a cluster of unexploded anti-personnel mines in a scorching, dried out river-bed, where any movement could set off a barrage of explosions.

It is here where a company of relatively inexperienced soldiers face almost insurmountable odds of survival and must pull together to courageously overcome one of the greatest threats they may ever encounter. The build up to these dramatic events establishes the various personalities present in the company with the usual gung-ho antics and machismo conversations you may come to expect from a war film but it also sheds light on the human side of these soldiers as they nervously wait to be called into action. By utilising a largely unknown British cast, director Paul Katis has ensured that we are completely in the dark as to who will survive from the unit and this leaves us as shell-shocked as the company whenever an explosion takes place.

The desolate surroundings of the company's base provide a stunning backdrop to the film's events, a backdrop which Katis uses to his advantage with a handful of sumptuous establishing shots. The lifeless desert terrain and its occasional pockets of water, which the soldiers take great pleasure in using for a refreshing dip, exhibit the traits of an idyllic setting, albeit a grossly misleading one. Potential enemy activity nearby breaks the spell of the naturally beautiful environment and engages the momentum of the story as a group of intrepid soldiers head out to investigate and do their duty.

From the moment the first mine explodes we are thrust into a shocking and upsetting life or death situation. This has a huge impact on the emotional state of the servicemen who see their unit slowly falling to pieces around them, as well as being a distressing turn of events for the audience. Katis pulls no punches in showing the gory aftermath of the explosions as these young soldiers inadvertently set off numerous mines. The horrific wounds are displayed in all of their grisly detail; heightening the sense of realism and making the stomach churning situation even more uncomfortable and nerve-wracking for the viewer.

This is as much of an endurance test for the audience as it is for the company of soldiers who find themselves at the mercy of an unforgiving environment. There may be a handful of ill-advised decisions during the life altering events we witness but it's easy to look back on the situation with hindsight, and far more difficult to imagine if you would be able to act with such conviction and bravery in the same situation. Being able to put your own life at risk for the safety of others whose lives depend on your courageous actions is an inspiring and selfless personality trait to possess, and many of the soldiers are willing to do just that. The intensity of the situation exacerbates until it becomes a harrowing nightmare; a nightmare that we could easily switch off (if we were affected enough to do so) but those who experienced it first hand had to endure, using all of their strength and willpower if they were to have any chance of surviving to see another day.

A powerful and heart wrenching coda details the aftermath for those involved alongside
photos of the real life heroic soldiers, adding an overwhelming sense of emotion to what is already an incredibly draining and disturbing film. This sad story has been retold with the utmost of respect to the devastated men who were there on the fateful day of the incident. Writer Tom Williams doesn't judge or condone anyone's actions and presents his account without bias to allow the audience to form their own views on where the mission falls down. Kajaki is a gripping and poignant anti-war film that demonstrates the horrific and long lasting effect war can have on the countries that are ravaged by its evil nature. This is an important and impressive feature film debut from Paul Katis and marks him as a promising director who we should all be looking out for in the future.

If you take the time to watch Kajaki then it would be awesome if you could also take the time to let me know what you thought of it, either by commenting below or tweeting me @filmbantha. Thanks, and enjoy!

For previous instalments in the series click here

No comments:

Post a Comment