5 Days of War Movie Review
Renny Harlin is at it again. You know, trying to trick audiences into thinking he's still relevant. Over a decade since Deep Blue Sea and nearly 20 years since his last major hit - Cliffhanger - Harlin is back once again with the war thriller 5 Days of War. It's a valiant effort - it really is - but lacks the necessary budget and, more importantly, the tension required to make a movie like this work.
5 Days of War is set during the brief invasion of Georgia by its neighbor Russia, known as the 2008 South Ossetia war (which occurred during the Beijing Summer Olympics). It follows two journalists who befriend a family of Georgians while attempting to elude Russian forces to get their story to the public.
For its $20-million budget, 5 Days of War looks pretty good, with plenty of bombings, shootings and action scenes. For a director who over the last decade has given audiences such duds as Driven, Exorcist: The Beginning and the John Cena suckfest 12 Rounds, the movie is a step up in quality and excitement.
But that's not saying much.
5 Days of War still looks and feels like a cheap wannabe war thriller. Because it is. It's glossy when it should be gritty, which makes it challenging to buy into what's happening on screen. Harlin's goal is to show the brutality of war and the injustice suffered by the Georgian people during the invasion (of note, an international commission determined that while Russia overreacted, Georgia was the one to provoke the invasion), but the bright lighting and overall style is just wrong.
More importantly, 5 Days of War just isn't very engaging. The journalists-behind-enemy-lines story has been done before, and to greater effect. Neither Rupert Friend nor Richard Coyle serve as very strong protagonists, though the screenplay by Mikko Alanne and David Battle may to be blame. The movie plays out more like an action film than a war movie, with soldiers jumping through windows to save the day at the last minute and exaggerated sequences that never feel very real. When the filmmakers do try to approach the movie as a war picture, he typically draws from clichés that don't resonate on an emotional level.
The casting is also strange. Issues with Friend and Coyle aside, Emmanuelle Chriqui's presence as a Georgian woman is also strange. Known best for playing E's superhot girlfriend on "Entourage", she just seems out of place and serves as more of an awkward love interest than a legitimate character. Oddly, the most well known actors are reduced to glorified cameos. Val Kilmer comes and goes from the movie, adding little value, while Andy Garcia delivers an uninspiring performance as the Georgian president. Heather Graham is in the movie for about two minutes before she's shot to death.
Though it has many large flaws, 5 Days of War isn't a terrible movie. It has a lot of action and violence, and it is Harlin's best movie in years. But a high standard has been set for even mediocre war movies, and 5 Days of War just doesn't cut it. It lacks the grit and emotion necessary to deliver any impact.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.