Benedikt Erlingsson must be a gambling man. With his new film Woman at War, he pushes the limit on imagination; crossing the narrative with elements of a thriller and a deadpan comedy. But like a gambler with no self-control, Erlingsson overestimates his luck; spinning the film’s results into a somewhat smug affair.
Woman at War is primarily a cat-and-mouse thriller featuring a choir director-turn-eco-terrorist, Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir), protecting the Icelandic environment from the aluminum industry while outruning law enforcement who are gaining on her. Halla’s ambitions are challenged, however, when she’s been approved to adopt a Ukrainian child; leaving her to question her future in extreme activism as she carries out – what very well could be – her last mission.
The chase sequences work because of how Erlingsson frames the action. Halla is usually strategizing, targeting, and escaping within open environments, leaving her vulnerable against any conflicts. These scenes are silent yet high-strung, unpredictable and exciting – the viewer is glued to the edge of their seat. But, our concentration is often disconnected when Woman at War adds in factors that are convenient to the story, such as people who are suddenly available to help out Halla in a bind. Or, when Erlingsson splices in fourth-wall comedy in the form of mobile musicians who play the score on-screen. This visual can be funny, such as the exact same set-up in the recent Canadian short Ghost Beaver Kick, but it’s too slight to be recycled or expanded on.
Woman at War is decent, but the only war in the movie is the one audiences will be having with the recurring slip-ups.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie