Armadillo - DVD Review

'peels back a curtain many people will be uncomfortable looking behind'

Covering the same subject and thematic ground as Restrepo (co-directed by the late Tim Hetherington), Armadillo initially proves itself to be a brother to the American-made documentary in subject only. This Danish attempt to convey the experiences of the everyday soldier uses a more narrative-based approach to documentary film-making as well as different camera techniques, the most obvious and viscerally noticeable of which is the use of footage filmed on cameras attached to the soldier's helmets.

The footage captured this way is as dramatic as you might expect. Bullets crackle through the undergrowth as the soldiers duck and dive behind cover which hardly seems fit for purpose. IEDs and other explosives detonate at alarming volumes and distances, creating smoke and dust which sees the Danish troops ploughing blind into hostile areas. Like Restrepo, the footage of what the 'war on terror' looks like from a grounds-eye-view is both scary and completely without glamour, film-maker Janus Metz Pedersen successfully capturing the horror and shock of conflict, most noticeably displayed on a young soldier's face after he has been shot through the arm.

The narrative arc of the documentary, which chooses individual soldiers to follow and illustrates their development during their time at forward operating post Armadillo, is successful but noticeably manipulated. There is obvious insinuation that one of the soldiers signed up to the army but wanted to avoid conflict and so he is shown in a variety of scenes to look uncertain and is moved out of the frontline by colleagues, where possible. Although some of these actions obviously happened it never quite feels like you get the full picture, which is sacrificed at the expense of creating a more accessible film than the US version of a similar story.

Like that very story, Armadillo can also occasionally feel like it has little of its own to say and only face value observations to present. A late piece of controversy would be a tabloid journalist's wet dream but Pedersen simply displays brief discussions about the incident and its potential ramifications. There's no analysis or in-depth look at the aftermath, no judgement call on which side is right and which side is wrong, no inclination to source individual reactions from the soldiers. Like Restrepo the film is notable for the unique way it peels back a curtain many people will be uncomfortable looking behind but it also falls down the same holes as that film, presenting much but commenting little and analysing even less.

Look further...

'[sparks] controversy by bringing to light the harrowing atrocities we know occur amidst the adrenalin of warfare' - Andy Buckle's Film Emporium, 4.5/5

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