Film Review: Kajaki: The True Story

There has been a huge amount of hype surrounding, Kajaki: The True Story. People praising it for just how true to life and reflective of modern warfare it is. Proclaiming that it returns the genre back to the exacting painful existence that Hollywood sadly beautified and expanded into hyperrealism over recent years, with offerings like Lone Survivor while intense, also feeling over polished and produced. But Kajaki was back to basics, low budget film making. The first film by, Paul Katis, and partly crowd funded, it sets out to purely to tell a story exactly as it happened, to place you in the heart of the action. There have even been mumblings laying claim to this potentially being the best British war film ever made.

These were big claims and so, even though I am not naturally drawn to war movies, I felt this was a film worth searching out, worth seeing. And so, it was off to a late night screening at my local multiplex to see if the story lived up to its billing. If this truly was the best British war film for a generation.

I can report back, however, that for me, it’s not. I will caveat that by stating that it is purely my opinion, I am sure there are a lot of people who will go and see Kajaki and come away: moved, reflective and emotional at what they have seen, but I am sadly not one of them. This isn’t because I am cold hearted and unable to feel emotion but rather because the world I was presented with is so far removed from anything I can relate to that I was just unable to connect with the characters and their situation.

Boys On Tour - Kajaki: The True Story

I don’t do “boys on tour”. In fact, I actively shy away from it. And while basically boys on tour is just a culture of male bonding and camaraderie at its highest, life in the army is the pinnacle. The over inflated extreme of a world I internally detest. Jokes, swearing, taking “the mick”, it’s a way of life, a way of survival for those ranked in authority. But it’s not for me. And so, from the very outset of this film, we were on a collision course of personality. The film may be true to life, but it’s not a life that I can partake in and so, I never felt able to, or even wanted to, relax.

The next issue for me, comes around from the fact that in the military you have a standardised look. Camouflage gear designed to blend you into your surroundings, haircuts buzzed for efficiency, fitness toned through routine and necessity. And while the few major characters in the story have enough defining features as to stand out, the rest of the crowd really does blend together in such a way that I was finding it very difficult to tell who was who and where was where in the sand pit location of this tale.

Then comes the films biggest issue for me, it’s cinematic tone. It feels like a documentary, it feels like the telling of a true story you expect to see on the Discovery Channel. You almost expect it to cut away to numerous talking heads interviews providing narrative explanation to the actions unfolding. It just doesn’t feel like something you’d watch in a cinema. But then, something goes BANG, and the rawness that it’s big screen setting allows comes charging to the forefront with the extremes and grotesqueness of inhumane weaponry laid bare to see. It’s almost too realistic in its portrayal of injury, not because it really needs to be but because it can. Because it wants to be.

Mark Stanley as Tug - Kajaki: The True Story

But it doesn’t work. I never felt connected to the film. It’s visually raw but emotionally not. I sat their looking at a screen, never really feeling moved by the characters, or the actions, events and situations they were in. My heart never started racing and even though I had no idea of the story, or how things would play out, the intensity of the situation never really came through. They were attempting to force the danger and pain of war onto me through the graphic detail of suffering, injury and the unknown; yet at no point did I ever feel unsafe.

I hate to say it, but honestly, I was bored.

And the timings in this film just compound things badly. It’s not a long film, but it treats time as honestly as it’s source material. Every second feels it’s length and shots are held for that moment longer than cinematically necessary. Having never engaged with the film, to then be treated to a slower and slower dragging out of events, mainly in an attempt to convey the elapsing time the soldiers endured, was slightly more than I needed to take. And yes, I looked at my watch twice wondering how much longer I’d have to put up before anything happened to either move the story forward, or better still end it.

Like I said though, I am convinced that this film is going to prove divisive because depending on your personality, whether you are introverted or extroverted, whether you enjoy “lads culture” or not, your reaction and enjoyment of Kayaki: The True Story will differ greatly, and in it’s staunch commitment to be faithful, it provides no middle ground, no room for compromise. I’m glad I’ve seen it, but it’s not a film for me, it’s not a film I’d watch again, and it’s not the war film of a generation.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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