It’s something of a travesty that this sense-battering vérité war movie which follows a ferocious battalion of dead-eyed boy soldiers as they help to overthrow a tinpot dictator in an unnamed African state is being released on just three screens in London. Debut director Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire shows all the technical moxie and in-your-face urgency of Paul Greengrass at his best, shooting the film in a clipped, docu-realist style that gives it the tension, the political profundity and the emotional wallop of even the classiest multiplex genre fare. Clad in dressing-up-box attire, including wedding dresses, fairy wings, wigs and crash helmets, this 15-strong unit of trigger-happy, pill-popping teens (all superbly brought to life by real Liberian youngsters, some actual ex-fighters) browbeat, exploit and murder all who stand in their way.
Like Kubrick’s ‘Full Metal Jacket’, this is a film about the cultural influence of war: the vernacular, the attire, even the occasional sliver of dark poetry that can emerge from its dank recesses. The dialogue is made up almost entirely of patriotic clichés, machismo-fanning mantras and call-and-response chants. The film sees war as a deadener of moral and physical inhibition, a paradoxical state where there are no winners or losers, just the living and the dead. Stunning.