Growing up in the 1980s, I was one of the lucky (or unlucky, depending on your world view) little boys who got the chance to play “war” with my friends using plastic toys and cap guns that resembled real firearms. Beyond that, even sticks tied together with twine could turn into a machine gun or sniper rifle using my imagination. My friends and I would plan strategies, make attacks, and argue about who “got who” and who missed their shots. Watching Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson’s “I Declare War”, I was fondly reminded of those simpler times in my life which, upon retrospect, might not have been all that simple. The basic overview of I Declare War is that a group of kids are having an imaginary game of “war” in which two armies fight for each other’s flag. Each side is commanded by a general – the “hero” side of the film (and, like actual war, heroes and villains are not always clear cut) is lead by “PK”, played believably by Gage Munroe (Alphas, Falling Skies).
PK believes he was born to be a general, and is an avid student of military history. His favorite film is Patton, a movie he likes to watch over and over ad nauseam. The opposing force is led by “Quinn”, an adversary who PK believes is his first real challenger to a long winning streak. Of course, the game of “war” has rules. Rules like a respawn timer, “kill” grenades, and others which the kids will, as kids do, obey or disobey based on their respective motivations. In this game, while the guns may be made from sticks, the kids see them as real – a view point we, as the audience, go back and forth from.
What I Declare War is really about, however, are the personal relationships between the kids playing the game. How the evolve over the course of the day’s events and how personal grudges, jealousy, and other dark aspects of human nature get between them. I Declare War actually makes for a nice little treatise on human nature and the nature of war. After watching the film, I can’t say that it is perfect as a story.
There are a couple sub-plots which I became invested in that never have a conclusion. Also, there are some missed opportunities at taking the shocking aspect of the film (kids firing guns, being hit with blood-filled grenades, etc) that should have probably been taken even further. The film seems like it is holding back the gore and horror at times when, even in this overly-sensitive age we live in, would have made this good film that much more effective. Be shocking. Art, and that is what this film is, can and should elicit emotion. Playing that horror and gore off of the innocence that the young kids possess is where some of the film’s key contrasting themes lie.
Overall, “I Declare War” is a very good film which is exceptionally-easy to become invested in. The young actors all give great performances and the plot moves along at a good, speedy pace. The movie will be available on VOD, digitally, and on iTunes on July 26th.
*Update: (8/19) The films has been released on VOD for a while now, and will have a THEATRICAL release on September 30th, 2013!
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