Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Mark Jackson
Written by: Mark Jackson & Kristin Gore
Starring: Catherine Keener, Hafsia Herzi, Ben Kingsley & Donatella Finocchiaro
The trailer for WAR STORY is mainly what sold me on watching this film. I heard negative word-of-mouth upon its premiere at Sundance and even more during its VOD run. The concept behind this film sounded like it would target a select group of people (of which I obviously hoped I would be one of) too. I decided to give this one a shot with hopes for the best. Instead, WAR STORY is a sluggish mess that fails to elicit any honest emotions and is more focused on long camera shots of its actors walking through various areas than actually developing a single character to the point of getting the viewer to care about them. This film is a textbook example of pretentious artsy-fartsy nonsense masquerading as important cinema.
According to the plot summaries on IMDB and the back of the DVD case, this film follows a shell-shocked war photographer, Lee, coming to terms with a recent traumatic ordeal. Along her emotional recovery, she reunites with her former mentor and takes interest in a Tunisian immigrant in need of an abortion and safe passage. Why did I have to look at the DVD case and IMDB to provide a supposedly accurate summary of the film? That’s because this movie is a whole lot of nothing for the first two-thirds. We aren’t given much to grasp or hang on to. This is just a woman becoming friends with a refugee and holing up in a hotel, but both of these plot devices fail to be compelling in the slightest.
The biggest sin that WAR STORY commits is that it’s boring. This might have possibly made for a somewhat interesting 10-minute short, but it’s a dreary slog to get through as a 90-minute feature. None of the characters are fleshed out beyond walking around on-screen. Ben Kingsley is also wasted in a cameo-like role. The movie just wanders aimlessly (like the main character) around the city with little rhyme or reason for the glacial pace or why it’s going nowhere. This will be a rather short review, because there’s nothing to this movie outside of a nice musical score that feels like it belongs in a far better film.
WAR STORY winds up being an endurance test of the highest order. It’s a boring waste of time that doesn’t make good use of two big performers and a good movie could have easily been made given the interesting subject matter that was supposedly being tackled. Instead, director/co-writer Mark Jackson opts for pretentious “art” that sucks 90 minutes out of the viewer’s life that they’ll never get back. WAR STORY comes off like an interesting concept with no effort put into it at all. Avoid this one like you would an actual war zone.