No Man's Land Review
By Christopher Null
Patton would have been disgusted.
Modern wars (at least, those not involving the U.S.) aren't fought man to man, or even tank to tank. They're fought in the dead of night, when everyone thinks the United Nations "peacekeepers" aren't watching. By day, the U.N. "smurfs" (so called because of their ridiculous blue helmets) try in vain to broker half-assed ceasefires between sides that have extremely complicated reasons for fighting and have little respect for the men in blue.
Unlike any of the recent rash of rotten films about the conflict in Bosnia (Savior, Welcome to Sarajevo) No Man's Land presents a balanced and devastatingly accurate look at the conflict, lambasting the west for its inability (or apathy) to do much of anything to stop the carnage.
And while No Man's Land is really about presenting its political goals, it still manages to hold our attention by telling a very personal and engaging story from the front lines. Or rather, from between the front lines, as we fine two soldiers, one Bosnian and one Serbian, stuck in the no man's land between the trenches. A standoff develops when a third man becomes trapped, lying upon a live land mine that will obliterate the area if he is moved. And an uneasy détente forms among the men as they wait from help from the U.N. in defusing the mine. Their innate hatred for one another makes it difficult for any kind of peace, however short, to be reached -- and as a result, the whole situation self-destructs.
The ending is unfortunately both expected and curiously unmoving, though it's not without a certain sense of irony and a hands-in-the-air surrender about the reality of the modern civil war. All of the performances are spot-on, though the use of a half-dozen languages that come at you rapid-fire gets unnerving quickly. While No Man's Land doesn't quite redefine the war genre, expect to see it on a number of top ten lists come year-end (and in fact, it just won Best Foreign Language Film at the 2002 Oscars).
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Wednesday 19th September 2001
Distributed by: United Artists Pictures
Production compaines: Counihan Villiers Productions
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Fresh: 91 Rotten: 7
Cast & Crew
Producer: Marc Baschet, Frédérique Dumas-Zajdela, Cédomir Kolar