I Declare War (2014)

I guess you can make the argument that “I Declare War” is something of a variation of The Stanford Prison Experiment where we’re given a glimpse in to set roles and the extremes taken with them. Instead “I Declare War” is filled with nothing but preteens and some teenagers and presents a very deceitful set up. While it’s true the film is about a bunch of kids playing war in the woods, the film is not for all ages. It’s a very adult film, and that’s one of the reasons why I wasn’t quick to give up on it once it ran out of steam mid-way. This is how kids act. They’re violent, and swear a lot. They’re wiser than anyone thinks, they can be vulnerable, and courageous, and through and through, they have their own personal rivalries with one another that can take a turn for the disturbing.

Directors Jason Lapeyre, and Robert Wilson make it perfectly clear that this is a pretend war, with children using sticks, branches, and slingshots to imitate war weapons. But they also never shy away from the intent behind the devices, showing cast members firing off rifles, machine guns, and bazookas at one another. They’re very bold in depicting the children using what they intend as very deadly weapons. And events spiral out of control as the organized and strict game becomes very heated through the day with the leaders of both warring fractions PK and Skinner letting their outside troubles depict their actions during war. PK is a very clever team leader who’s not only intent on capturing Skinner’s flag, but rescuing valuable soldier Kwon of his from Skinner’s hold.

Skinner is anxious to defeat PK and resorts to very violent measures to gauge information from Kwon to learn of the team’s strategy. Skinner has taken hold of his team from the former leader, and resorts to using an actual knife on Kwon, as well as pressing his body down with a large wooden board threatening to suffocate him. As mentioned, the game has been altered by personal grudges, and an unexplained event that occurred outside of the game has Skinner quite desperate to defeat PK and establish his power among his ranks. There’s also master sling shot shooter, and lone female player Jess who is in the game to impress an ex-general.

While “I Declare War” definitely has an idea of how much inhabiting these characters can change our personas, and how seriously children take these games. I was surprised at the amount of violence injected in to the action. It’s sad though that “I Declare War” loses steam after the first hour. The gimmick of depicting real life combat through the eyes of the players quickly wears thin and you can almost feel writer Jason Lapeyre searching for ways to pad out the narrative. “I Declare War” watches too much like a short film extended in to feature length, with somewhat repetitive action and obvious padding. That said, the performances all around are top notch, with the cast tasked with playing characters playing roles, and they’re successful. “I Declare War” is a unique and out of the box film, and though the end result is only above average, it’s still worth watching.