No Man's Land

"Excellent"

No Man's Land Review


War movies have a tendency to be grandiose and didactic ("Saving Private Ryan"), action-packed and heroic ("Behind Enemy Lines"), maudlin and self-important ("Life Is Beautiful") -- or some combination thereof. But "No Man's Land" is none of the above, and above them all in its brilliant, unpretentious simplicity.

A small-scale battlefield farce, it speaks volumes about the absurdities of modern ethnic conflicts in the age of ever-present but under-effective UN Peacekeepers -- and it does so without soap box speeches, overblown battle sequences or playing any metaphorical violins.

Bosnian writer-director Danis Tanovic boils down the ironic truths of centuries-old enmity in his homeland and presents them in a meaningfully funny story about two soldiers from opposite sides of the war, trapped together between enemy lines in an abandoned trench.

Ciki (Branko Djuric) is a weary, aged-beyond-his-years Bosnian guerilla. Nino (Rene Bitorajac) is an eager, by-the-book Serbian recruit, so fresh from training his uniform is still as crisp as his militaristic attitude. And from the moment they come face-to-face, a standoff ensues inside and outside the DMZ furrow.

Even as they begin to find each other surprisingly amiable, the two soldiers are always primed for an argument about who started the war and are always looking to get the upper hand. More than once the balance of power shifts (in a struggle for a gun, for example) and one will send the other to the top of the trench -- in his underwear (i.e. sans an identifying uniform) -- to see if anyone starts firing.

Neither the Bosnians (100 yards away to one side) nor the Serbs (100 yards away to the other) are willing to risk men for a rescue because neither side knows exactly who's in there. When a near-naked man appears in their binoculars, running back and forth atop the trench, a commander will shrug and say, "I'll alert HQ. Call me if there's any change."

Meanwhile back in the disputed gully, a third trapped man compounds their predicament. Cera (Filip Sovagovic), Ciki's Bosnian compatriot who actually landed in the trench first, is lying on a land mine. If he moves, they're all dead.

Director Tanovic never dismisses the seriousness of warfare. Instead he questions the point of it all within the context of his comedy, while finding subtle moments of poignancy throughout the picture, as when Ciki takes a look at the mine under his friend, and in moving the man's arm brings a tightly gripped photo of his girlfriend into the frame.

Tanovic also has a lot of fun at the expense of the United Nations and the international press. Katrin Cartlidge ("From Hell," "Breaking the Waves") gives a deliciously tart performance as an aggressive, Christiane Amanpour-style reporter whose high-profile scoop on the incident makes the UN commander in the region (a sardonically pompous Simon Callow, "Shakespeare In Love") look up from his secretary's cleavage and start spinning damage control.

When Peacekeepers arrive ("Here come the Smurfs!" declares a soldier) to monitor the situation, the whole mess becomes embroiled in bureaucracy and face-saving measures. "Get back into the trench, pretend to be busy," Callow tells a bomb expert who says he can't save the soldier on the mine. "Buy us some time."

In the entertaining serio-comic, anti-war tradition of "Dr. Strangelove" and "Catch-22," but to a more modest and authentic degree, "No Man's Land" isn't a great war movie because it blows your mind by making you feel or making you think. It's a great war movie because it's confident enough in its emotions and convictions to focus on the laughs, knowing you'll get the message anyway.



No Man's Land

Facts and Figures

Run time: 98 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 19th September 2001

Box Office USA: $0.9M

Distributed by: United Artists Pictures

Production compaines: Counihan Villiers Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Fresh: 91 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 8.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: Branko Đurić as Ciki, as Nino, as Cera, as Marchand, as Michel, as Pierre, as Jane Livingstone, as Dubois

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The BFG Movie Review

The BFG Movie Review

For his adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Steven Spielberg reunited with screenwriter Melissa Mathison,...

Finding Dory Movie Review

Finding Dory Movie Review

It's been 13 years since the release of the Disney/Pixar hit Finding Nemo, and filmmaker...

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

This is where the Star Trek franchise officially shifts from thoughtful drama into thunderous action....

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

With its fifth feature-length adventure, this franchise continues its preposterous journey at full tilt. As...

Keanu Movie Review

Keanu Movie Review

An entertaining hybrid of satirical comedy and action thriller, this madcap adventure swerves wildly between...

Ghostbusters Movie Review

Ghostbusters Movie Review

It's been more than 30 years since the Ghostbusters first hit the big screen with...

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

While the original 2013 magical caper was a big hit, it's style-over-substance approach didn't exactly...

Advertisement
The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

It's been nearly 30 years since the last live-action Tarzan movie, and yet it still...

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

A New York comedy with vivid characters and a contrived plot, this feels rather a...

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Nearly 25 years after the sitcom debuted, Edina and Patsy arrive on the big screen...

Central Intelligence Movie Review

Central Intelligence Movie Review

After teaming up with Will Ferrell for Get Hard and Ice Cube for two Ride...

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

Based on a true story, this Chilean drama has a chilling edge to it that's...

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Two decades is a long time to wait for a sequel, especially one starring much...

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

This movie is based on a real meeting between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon in...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.