The trailer for Kajaki has been playing in the cinema for a good few weeks but it still managed to feel like it appeared in the listings out of nowhere. As I suspected that the film might have a short cinematic run a mid-week trip was required to ensure that I didn’t miss out. Missing out would have been a big mistake.
The film is based on a true story and as I was not present at Kajaki Dam in 2006 I have no idea just how accurate the events are. In keeping with tradition I haven’t bothered to do any research although the events that occurred warrant our attention.
PLOT: While stationed on the edge of the Kajaki Dam a small group of British soldiers set out to investigate some Taliban movement when one of the soldiers is injured by a landmine laid by the Russians during their occupation of Afghanistan. The rest of the troop comes to their aid and they find themselves stranded in a landmine filled valley until help arrives. END PLOT
Initially the plot moves quite slowly as we are introduced to the camp and the soldiers who are based there. Once the troop sets off down the mountain the pace and tension steadily increase and doesn't stop until the closing credits. The tension never lets up and every time there was a close-up of a footstep I was on the edge of my seat. The explosions came and there was no holding back with carnage that followed. The injuries were horrific and it was difficult to watch the medic work with limited supplies and a seemingly never ending run of bad luck. It looked like there was very little CGI which made the injuries feel almost too real. The makeup and effects departments deserve a lot of credit.
What makes Kajaki strike a chord with the audience is that the characters are everyday soldiers who could have been in your class at school or would be your drinking buddies in the local pub – there are no overly-muscled Bradley Cooper’s here. The banter between the soldiers is crude but real and there is no doubting their brotherhood or commitment to each other. The tagline, “For Queen. For Country. For your mates.” became more poignant after watching the film.
The cast were phenomenal and their regression from the confident, bantering soldiers at camp to being scared shitless for each other will stick in my mind for some time to come. The only recognisable face is Mark Stanley who plays Grenn in Game of Thrones but the unknown cast heightens the fact that these were just normal soldiers going about their daily routine.
Aside from a few Kaiser Chiefs songs playing at camp, just to remind us that this is a British film set in 2006, there is no other music as the film was so confident it didn’t need to rely on a score to enhance the tension or drama. The complete lack of Hollywood glamour in Kajaki is what makes it real.
It has become tradition for pictures of the soldiers involved to be played over the closing credits and it is a trick that when handled well really enhances the emotional aspect of a film. It is sometimes easy to lose track of the characters as they can all blend in to one but I know I could name the vast majority of the people involved which is a rare occurrence. Seeing what badasses the soldiers are in 2015, especially those who lost limbs and still serve their country, gave the film a surprisingly positive ending.
Kajaki is a tough watch but it deserves to be seen by the same people who flocked to see American Sniper, if not more. If you get sucked in, and there is no reason why you wouldn’t, you end up living every minute of the ordeal with them. It gets 10/10. An easy entry in my best of 2015 list.