ARMADILLO (2010) – Documentary Retroview

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Becoming Part of the War Culture

Documentary filmmaker Janus Metz, following young Danish soldiers on their first tour of duty in Afghanistan, chronicles the platoon’s experiences from the time of their testosterone-driven pre-deployment celebrations and sad goodbyes with family and friends who have obvious concerns about their safety, to their first terrifying shoot out with the enemy and ongoing defense against attacks, through their encounters with local people whose lives are torn apart by the ongoing conflict.

War Is Not A Video Game

Armadillo is another war documentary — like The Battle For Marjah, Restrepo and Camp Victory, for example — in which an ’embedded’ filmmaker chronicles the deployment of troops to Afghanistan. In Armadillo, the troops and filmmaker happen to be Danish, and we are, through their eyes, presented with a somewhat different perspective on the war and the impact it has on those who experience it.

At the start, these young Danes are confident and set for the great adrenalin-fueled adventure of battle.

Deployment and combat are not, however, the thrill ride they anticipate. They are quickly beset by stress and constant danger, upset by their confusing cross cultural encounters with local friendlies and unsure of their combat preparedness and skills. They are boys who’ve played at war for their entire lives, and are now grappling with the realities of the real thing.

Like the other embedded documentaries, Armadillo is an observational film. What it points out, perhaps more clearly and effectively than its American counterparts, is that war damages everyone who experiences it. Shell shock is real, and its commonplace. And, when young soldiers come home from war, they bring the war home with them.

Compelling Characters In Combat

Filmmaker Janus Metz Pedersen chose his core cast well. The soldiers he follows are average, wholesome, attractive guys with whom everyone — Danes, Americans and other folk — can identify, and we care that their psyches are being shattered, as we get to know them on screen. The director risked personal danger to capture the soldiers’ experiences — up close and personal — on film. The footage, which is dramatic and bloody, and often hard to watch, takes you right into the trenches with the soldiers. As a result of seeing them in action and the effect that action has upon them, you might think twice about sending others to follow in their footsteps, with other filmmakers to be ’embedded’ to chronicle their particular experiences of the horrors of war.

Film Details:

Title: Armadillo
Directors: Janus Metz Pedersen
Premiere: May 16, 2010 (Cannes Film Festival)
US Theatrical Release Date: April, 2011 (limited)
Running Time: 100 mins.
Location: Helmand Province, Afghanistan
Language: Danish, with English subtitles
Company: Fridthof Films
Production Country: Denmark
Official Website

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