While the current war in Afghanistan is the setting for the harrowing British drama Kilo Two Bravo, it’s the shadow of a previous conflict in the region that looms over the lives of its soldiers.
Based on a 2006 incident, the grueling debut feature from director Paul Katis takes place in a dried-up, sun-baked Afghan riverbed near the Kajaki dam, where soldiers discover they can’t move because the entire area has been mined. But it wasn’t their enemy the Taliban who planted the devices. Instead, they are deadly relics from Russia’s incursion into the country in the ’80s.
So when one soldier, Stuart Hale (Benjamin O’Mahony, The Other Boleyn Girl) steps on a mine, losing a limb but not his life, it sets off a chain reaction of horror and heroism as the others try to figure out how to help him and themselves. They radio for aid, but the rescuing chopper is afraid to land for fear of setting off more explosions. Everyone realizes they just may be on their own.
It takes awhile for the sometimes grisly Kilo Two Bravo — called Kajaki: The True Story in England — to get going, and the ensemble is so large it’s difficult at first to distinguish one soldier from another. That’s not helped by the fact that the accents are so thick that many lines won’t be comprehensible to an American audience.
Still, once the men are on the riverbed facing a painful death, Katis and screenwriter Tom Williams wind up the suspense to the point where even a rock cascading down a hill will have you holding your breath, waiting for the next bomb to detonate.
There’s also no stance taken on the war itself. As such, it bears some similarity to such films as The Hurt Locker, Germany’s Das Boot, Israel’s Lebanon, or the Northern Ireland-set ’71 from earlier this year, where it’s less about the flag for which these men may die but the bravery they must summon to survive.
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Kilo Two Bravo
Director: Paul Katis
Cast: David Elliot, Mark Stanley, Scott Kyle
Rated: R (disturbing and graphic depiction of war injuries, and pervasive strong language)
Running time: 108 min.