GIFF Review: ‘Kajaki: The True Story’, Starring Mark Stanley and David Elliott


War speaks to a lot of people. The ones fighting in it, the civilians, and a plethora of other people directly or indirectly affected. It touches so many, and sometimes an act of bravery doesn’t have to coincide with picking up a weapon. Sometimes all it takes is being there for one’s brothers-in-arms. And Kajaki: The True Story most definitely showcases this in a raw and guttural retelling of true events.

It’s 2006 and British soldiers stand watch above the Kajaki Dam in Afghanistan,  monitoring for Taliban movement. They go about their days trying to keep themselves occupied and fed. One day, during an excursion down a mountainside, Stu (Benjamin O’Mahoney) steps on a landmine which obliterates the lower half of one leg. This sets off a chain reaction as the remaining soldiers and chief medic Tug (Mark Stanley) try and get to Stu without blowing up themselves. And so begins the longest day for them as they wait for help to come and support each other the best they can.

Kajaki is really unlike most war movies. It’s much more raw and downright authentic, not wasting a minute on theatrics or dramatic notions for the audience’s sake. There isn’t any music playing throughout the film and no big speeches that are set to music intended to make you weep. Also unique to it is that it focuses on the soldiers in their time of trauma and support minus all the complications of adding in any outside interaction with the “bad guys”, so to speak. Their trauma a d heartache is their own and gives a new side of the dangers of war that has nothing to do with showdowns or shootouts.

Landmines are unseen enemies. Littered across the bottom of the mountainside, they are the true deadly thing they must battle. All the actors in the film have a good camaraderie with each other. They’re intent to do as much for each other as possible is the definition of always having each other’s backs. The graphic images and damage to each soldier that director Paul Katis doesn’t stray away from showing might prove to be a bit too much for some, but is thoroughly appreciated for not hiding behind camera trickery to conceal all the gore and trauma. Ultimately, Kajaki is a film to be commended for its true-to-form reenactment of events and for its grounded portrayal of what these soldiers experienced that day.


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