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  • What would make a young man who has just completed a harrowing and brutal six month tour of duty in Afghanistan decide to return for another stint? The answer to that question is puzzling, but it is made a bit clearer by Janus Metz' powerful documentary Armadillo, Gran Prix winner at the Critics Week competition at the Cannes Film Festival. Armadillo, like Restrepo, is named for the military base where the subjects are stationed. The film depicts the bravery and camaraderie and also the addictive high of several Danish soldiers, seemingly just out of their teens, that comes from their participation in the war in Afghanistan.

    Edited by Per K. Kirkegaard, Metz follows the soldiers from their farewell party at home filled with naked strippers to their arrival at base camp, moments of relaxation, briefings by their superiors, times of boredom, and the combat that includes some stomach turning sequences. The camera seems to be ever present and it hardly seems like an understatement to say that the director and cinematographer Lars Skee's lives were as much at risk as the soldiers. The film also demonstrates the plight of the villagers who are afraid of Taliban retribution if they cooperate with coalition forces. Caught in the middle, the Afghan civilians suffer greatly, standing to lose their crops, their animals, and their lives either from NATO forces or from the Taliban.

    What makes it even more distressing, as the film points out, the soldiers cannot distinguish between friend and foe. When one of the soldiers accidentally kills a young girl, all that can be offered is compensation while the Platoon commander tells the soldier that did the killing to shrug it off because these things happen every day. The camera-work is up close and personal and the horrors of war perhaps have never had such an immediate impact. We can see the look on a young soldier's face after he has just been shot and we see decapitated Taliban bodies being pulled from a ditch.

    While the film takes no position either pro-war or anti-war, the inhumanity of war has never been shown more clearly and the soldiers boasting and laughter after obliterating a wounded enemy while high on adrenaline, caused considerable debate about appropriate military behavior back home in Denmark. Depending on your point of view the soldiers are either making a difference or perpetuating atrocities in an unwinnable war. What does become clear, however, is the bond formed by the men and their lack of questioning of their mission. Like adolescents on a drunken rampage, they are excited by the thrill of the moment. We owe Metz a debt of gratitude for showing us the mindless, sadistic, and dehumanizing behavior that war can induce. Armadillo stands as one of the most visceral and frightening documentaries about combat ever made.
  • I went to see this movie with my mother. We come from Slagelse, the city where Gardehusarregimentet is situated, ie. the place of the danish camp from which these soldiers came from.

    Previously I have been stationed abroad with the military so I know a bit about the situation. I also know that my mother was worried all the time I was away, so I figured she would appreciate the movie. And she did.

    The movie is at times fun, but most of the time it's simply depicting the life I got to know. Lots of boring days, waiting for something to happen. It shows the exact same kind of stereotypes I saw myself, the quiet one, the gung-ho type, the smart-ass etc. I quickly tuned into the whole scenario.

    Armadillo might not be a masterpiece technically, but if you can stomach seeing it and NOT getting a lump in your throat, you're either without feelings or not alive. I remember the day I was going to ship off, the last conversation with my mom. And I was in my late 20s. Some of these boys are in their early 20s and far from mature.

    We get to see how the "hot" situations are down there and that is fine. But I would have liked more about their everyday boring life. Sure, it might not make for the most interesting movie material, but you don't get the exact picture of just how boring it can be too.

    Apart from that, a very well made movie.

    Oh and the controversy of the soldiers killing (lethally) wounded Talebans? I would have done the same thing. And I am almost a pacifist. I might not agree with the fact that we're shipping off people there still, but I agree with how the people down there reacts.
  • Goettschwan23 August 2010
    This is hands down the best war documentary I have ever seen. Most of it is beautifully filmed and put together, and it is showing how things are. I am a civilian, with a big interest in these things, and had my attention drawn to this movie because it seemed to get a thumbs up from people in the military. It sure shows controversial things, but balances them all the way, and show us both the civilian side with their troubles, and the danish soldiers side. Even at its controversial high point after a shootout it stays very neutral, and as such is a masterpiece of showing people the daily life of a soldier. My only gripe is that I had wished it a little longer, with more scenes that show the boredom that such a place must surely be, when nothing is happening.
  • The war documentary Armadillo shows both the fragile and the hard side of the Danish soldiers in Afghanistan, and it shows how the Danish soldiers develop black humor in order to get a distance from the serious war. It is furthermore realistic and objective and it will certainly start an important social debate. It is striking how much this war looks like the Vietnam war. The movie also debates what a war hero is. Where shall we draw the line? Are you a hero if you shoot some Talebans? Apparently yes. It also shows that this war is very hard to the civilians, and that they are trapped between two sides. If they help the "intruders" aka the USA, Denmark and so on then Taleban will come after them, but if they help Taleban, then the "intruders" will come after them. Though the film is serious it also contains "epic" boyish fun so to speak, and that gives an extra facet to the movie. Armadillo is an utmost relevant movie, and therefore it is a must-see!
  • This deserves the award it won at Cannes. Our theater is only showing this for a few days, it seems, although they have now doubled the amount of showings. It was packed when I went. Maybe this will aid in the situation and approach finally being reevaluated, because it clearly is hopeless right now; if you weren't certain, this will cement it for you. This has some of the best photography I've ever witnessed, and not only for a documentary. I find it hard to believe that the cameramen were always entirely safe during this. This Danish piece of non-fiction depicts six months at the Armadillo base in the Helmand province. We see the young men in various moods, a handful of them expected, others not. They entertain themselves and each other, they get bored, they express a desire to help in the war... and reveal their excitement at the idea of combat. Dark humor and porn are used to deal with what they go through. This is funny at times, but it also hits you quite hard. It is a commentary on, among other things, the human psyche. The choice of form could not be more perfect; this is immensely objective, and the facts speak for themselves. No one is painted as a monster. It would appear that, when someone expressed their emotions and it was captured, it was put in the film. The editing is spot-on. This has an always well-composed, effective and fitting score. They use lingo occasionally, and each time a new term is said, we get an explanation of it. Every word spoken that is not in Danish is either subtitled or translated by an interpreter. I think it takes a bit of empathy and maturity to understand this. There is a lot of violence and disturbing content, as well as a little strong language, nudity and sexuality in this. I recommend this to everyone old enough for it. 10/10
  • This is a documentary. As such it tries to show the reality of camp armadillo in the Afghan Helmand province. Armadillo is the most forward of the allied camps, and as such the one with the most fighting, and the least civilian work. Taleban territory is 800 meter from the camp - and peace is not something that the locals dare hope for.

    Some people seam to think this movie is an argument against the war. I beg to differ. This movie simply shows us what war sometimes is: Young men, without a clue about why, leaving their tearladen family to fight in a country far away. AT great personal cost. Sometimes the greatest. Maybe - something good will come out of it, even though it can seem hopeless.

    The movie shows us the different coping strategies the soldiers uses. The sense of brotherhood, the porn, the adrenalin, the dark sarcastic humor. It shows us how the soldiers doesn't always have time to ask before shooting. And it shows us how different the soldiers are.

    It's a sober movie. Filmed at the front line, with images never before seen from the actual war in Afgahnistan. Beautiful camera work, sublime editing makes this a very good documentary.

    EDIT: What I miss - and why I don't give it a 10: I am actually a bit surprised by what the soldiers do not say. In these circumstances I would expect a much more racist tone/humor. But there is hardly any of that. The few soldiers I have met in real life, have all had very complicated/nuanced/many faceted feelings towards the local culture: Admiration and disgust at the same time. I get the feeling that this movie have actually edited the worst lingo out of the movie. I think it would serve everyone good to know, that if a returned soldiers refer to someone as a camel-f***er - this is not always because that same soldier cant feel a deep respect for said camel-******* culture, customs, language and persona.

    Also: A soldier 'snitches', and talks to his relatives back home, about a certain incident. Since everybody is talking about brotherhood in this movie, I would suspect that having a "snitch" in the brotherhood, has led to some interesting frustrations, misgivings and suspicions. This is not shown, which is disappointing.

    But still: fantastic camera-work, and very sober war movie. 8/10
  • This documentary about war in Afghanistan is simply a "masterpiece" by Janus Metz Pedersen. It covers a 6-month period of the lives of Danish soldiers in Afghanistan, showing us the daily life of a soldier in this war. It also shows the side of the local civilian people of Afghanistan, the way their lives are spoiled by this war and mostly by the way that the foreign powers are acting there. Local people are desperate by a war that not only offers nothing to them but also kills their families and makes them suffer even more.

    Unique photography. Great camera handling. Non-biased and truthful.

    90 minutes full of reality and sentiment at the same time.

  • Armadillo is a tour de force, reclaiming the pictures of war from the aseptic news rooms back to real fear, confusion and adrenaline that soldiers have to endure in a combat situation. The movie is captivating and demanding and certainly no easy experience for its audience. Still, it is worth it. Modern warfare and its embedded journalism has led to a distorted view of the public of what happens in war. Honestly, I thought such a frank documentation could only come from Europe. But now I heard from the American project "Restrepo". Really looking forward to this movie that sounds like a brother-in-arms to "Armadillo." There cannot be enough movies showing the cruelty and futility of war.
  • Reading reviews of this film, I noticed a lot of extreme praise, lauding this documentary as being perhaps, the "best war documentary ever made". With the praise so high, it is tempting therefore to look for the film to be the most dramatic, or visually compelling sight ever.

    Looking at the film that way, it is quite possible that you will be disappointed. This is not because the film is bad, far from it, but rather, is because the film has distinct and particular strengths.

    One of those strengths is paradoxically, the reasonably low casualty rate of of the protagonist unit, and reasonably low level of "blood and guts." Holding down the level of gore is very important because a lot of people watching war documentaries become too shocked and revolted to be able to draw much meaning from the film. This documentary shows enough for someone with little experience in such matters to be able to "get it" without being so shocked that the horror overwhelms everything else.

    The second strength of this film is in its being in the right places at the right time to capture a good sense of events. In contrast to some reviewers, I cannot say that the photography is absolutely the best; an experienced war photographer might be able to film things better in combat, but the camera is at least, generally in the right place, and the confusion of war becomes something understandable to the audience.

    The third big strength of this film is in capturing the way that morality for someone fighting a war is often experienced differently than a person who is not in that situation would expect. This is the outstanding feature of this documentary, and I am aware of no other that comes close to explaining this situation to a civilian or person unfamiliar with conflict.

    The fourth strength of this documentary is in its capture of the boredom and frustrations of military service.

    The upshot of all this is that "Armadillo" is a very informative film, and one that does a great deal to bridge the gap between civilians and the military. For all those guys who have been in the military, and who are frustrated by the fact that other people just don't "get it", this could be very useful.
  • As a former soldier, I was biased before seeing this movie. It is seldom that a documentary captures the reality soldiers goes through. Armadillo captured it, not perfectly because it is only a movie, but a close as any documentaries I have seen.

    It follows the Danish Soldiers stationed in Forward Operating Base (FOB) "Armadillo" (now named Budwan), which lies in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. A province known for its Taliban presence and its high yield of opium. We follow the young soldiers as they go through their 6 months period, through their high and lows.

    It is a movie for both proponent and opponents of the presents of international troops in Afghanistan.
  • egg57314 November 2011
    Warning: Spoilers
    I'm a veteran of two tours with the Canadian Army in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. When friends, family or random passers by ask me what being there is like, I refer them to Restepo and Armadillo.

    This movie is closer to my experiences in theatre. Lots of patrolling without a whole hell of a lot going on except watching the threat level increase as you go. It also covers what happens at home when someone hears something, distorts it, passes it on and the actual participants from the original event get caught up in it.

    It's a great movie, well filmed and well edited. If you wonder what it's like "Over There", check it out.

    And a quick FYI: when they clear the trench after shooting at the insurgents in it and throwing in a grenade, that's a drill. No crimes there, just a well executed drill.
  • Denmark has troops in Afghanistan. Here we follow a group of soldiers during their sex months in Taliban land. They are followed very closely by the camera man. In fact so close, that we duck together with him, when the machine gun fire starts.

    What's controversial here and has caused much debate in Denmark is the possibility of a war crime being committed, almost in front of our eyes. We can't judge, but we also see Danish soldiers being hurt and we follow the debriefing afterwards.

    The interesting thing is the loyalty conflict, which appears and which you will watch for yourself. Watch is war morality about? Anyway, these documentary takes us in every way nearer war conditions than most movies shown before, even from Vietnam.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Is there any man here that does not know that the seed of war in the modern world is industrial and commercial rivalry?" – Woodrow Wilson

    "Armadillo" documents the lives of Danish soldiers stationed at Helmand Province, Afghanistan. It purports to be an "objective" and "non partisan" war documentary, but this is not true.

    The film introduces us to a group of young soldiers days before they're shipped off to Afghanistan. Though they all have different faces, their motivations are largely the same; they view war as a rights of passage, a chance to define themselves, prove their manhood, go on an adventure and do "something important". These are trivial reasons to enlist, but the military has always been a cultic institution, preying on the anxieties and insecurities of the young.

    In typical war movie fashion, the rest of the film alternates between moments of downtime, and moments of tense, adrenaline pumping violence. At the end of the film, the Danish soldiers kill several Taliban soldiers. Later they discuss whether or not these murders were justified. Yes, they decide. End film.

    "Armadillo" pretends to be apolitical, but the very act of avoiding all context is itself a firm ideological stance. Ignored is the fact that the Taliban have been deliberately dehumanised by the West for a number of decades. They are painted as irrational fanatics, bearded extremists, and terrorists. This, of course, paves the way for aggression, military operations, and genocide, all of which are waged under the guise of collective self-defence. Killing the Taliban is then celebrated as a legal virtue. To leave the Taliban in control of Afghanistan, says the US and NATO, is to leave a haven for terrorism.

    Yet before 9/11, these same "terrorists" were Washington's close allies. They were funded, supported and hailed as "freedom fighters" who with "our help" would be able to fend off the Soviet Union, whom the American public were told sought to destroy Afghanistan. Under the pretext that the Afghan government was a Soviet puppet, which was false, the then Carter Administration authorised the covert funding of oppositional tribal groups. These groups were armed and trained in secret camps set up in Pakistan by the CIA.

    Thus was born "mujaheddin", a campaign of terror which resulted in the Afghan government in Kabul requesting the help of the Soviet Union, resulting in an ill-fated military intervention which ended ten years later with the retreat of Soviet forces and the descent of Afghanistan into an abyss of religious intolerance, poverty, warlordism and violence. Contrary to "official history", the mujaheddin did not arise in response to a hostile Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviet Union intervened at the request of the Afghan government in response to the instability being wrought by a Western funded and armed insurgency. See Nicaragua, Syria, Iraq, Libya etc.

    After 9/11, Washington then turned against the very "allies" they supported, a pattern which we find occurring throughout history. Think the West's funding of Saddam Hussein against Iran, prior to sweeping in and wiping him out decades later. In the case of the Taliban, the justification for their newfound status as "our enemies" became their supposed links to the WTC attacks and their sudden "oppression of women". In reality the Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11, and were the White House concerned about women's rights they wouldn't be close allies with countless other counties, most notably Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, both of which practise an "Islamic Law" akin to the Taliban.

    The real reason for Washington's change of stance toward Afghanistan is this. During the mid 1990s several mega corporations began to seduce the Taliban, all seeking the granting of mineral rights. Eventually the deal came down to a handful of corporations, the Unocal-CentGas consortium (which later "became" Chevron, and which has ties to the Bush family and Dick Cheney) and Bridas (an Argentine company). While negotiations were underway, Bridas found a partner in gas giant Amoco and Amoco itself went on to merge with British Petroleum. Throw in the fact that Gazprom, a Russian gas company, pulled out of the Unocal-CentGas consortium and that Unocol's proposed pipeline was closed to Afghanistan, whilst that proposed by Bridas would also service the local market, and it looked likely that the Taliban would strike business deals with Bridas. In response, Unocal and its lackeys stepped up their game. Their Vice President of International Relations appeared before the US Congress in February 1998, calling for the removal of the Taliban regime. The Taliban themselves were issued an ultimatum: take our offer or we drop the bombs. Meanwhile, cue the Clinton administration's sudden concern about "human right violations" in Afghanistan, the seizing of all US-held Taliban assets, the placement of trade bans, and the calling for the "surrender of Bin Laden". In other words, it was only when absolute control of oil was challenged that the Taliban regime was openly discredited.

    Although the Taliban continued to offer negotiations on the handover of Osama bin Laden, the atrocities of 9/11 gave Washington oil policies a convenient new all-inclusive justification. Oil motivations, never a popular foreign-policy justification, could now be submerged within a primal response to a deep-seated national combination of fear, loathing and outrage.

    Incidentally, drug trafficking constitutes the third biggest global commodity after oil and the arms trade. Afghanistan produces 92 percent of the world's opium, the profits of which are laundered back to the West or channelled toward corrupt chieftains and locals. The longer the war can be prolonged, the more these 3 industries profit. Unsurprisingly, most of the major White House players during this era were affiliated with oil companies active in Central Asia (Condolezza Rice, Bush, Zalmay Khalilzad, Hamid Karzai, Cheney, Donald Evans, Gale Norton, Spencer Abraham, Thomas White etc).

    4/10 – Says nothing you can't learn from a video game.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The only redeeming feature of this documentary is the scene with the Afghans, like when the kids talk to the Asian guy telling him to go home or when one Afghan man tells the Danish military that they have guns, the Taliban have guns but those who get killed are the civilians stuck between the warring sides. That to me is the main truth about modern warfare. In almost all the military conflicts nowadays around 80-90% of casualties are the civilians. That is what is really sick about modern wars. That and of course, the utter criminality of the whole thing.

    But instead the whole industry of movies about war and a good deal of literature all concentrate on the soldiers and their sufferings. And though, it is definitely possible to sympathize with the soldiers who have no choice but take arms to defend their homeland, it is hard to feel empathy for the Western youth who couldn't get a better job than go to a foreign land to kill people. This of course is always wrapped up in the heroic rhetoric but it is so thin and so obvious that there is nothing remotely enriching in this experience. You are there in the beautiful land with gorgeous mountains and you are just stuck at the base and can't even become real friends with locals. all you do is just blow up poor people's buildings, destroy their livelihood, and once in a while kill armed men or more often unarmed women and children.
  • As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have dragged on they have produced an increasing number of provocative war documentaries that have shattered many of the myths about the black-and-white absolutes of war that have often been sold to those on the home front. Armadillo, which screened this week at Austin's SXSW Film Festival, is one of the best films yet produced about the reality of life during a war. The film follows a Danish unit assigned to Helmand Provence in Afghanistan during a 6 months tour. The filmmakers hold nothing back in this intimate portrait of soldiers at war. They present a picture of young men who seem to lose their humanity in the brutal circumstances of war. The visceral picture of combat is harrowing and the filmmakers should be commended for what they have captured on film.

    Americans need to see films like Armadillo as they contemplate why we are in Afghanistan. A film like Armadillo makes us ask ourselves if this war worth the human cost that we are paying and what it is doing to the soldiers that we are sending to fight these wars. The film has caused considerable controversy in Denmark. We need more films like it to bring this controversy to highly complacent America.
  • Armadillo documents the six-month tour of a Danish military unit at Camp Armadillo, a forward operating base in southern Afghanistan. Much like "Restrepo" it was filmed by embedded journalists, took place around the same time frame and in the same country (though on the opposite side), included pre-tour and post-tour footage from the soldiers'respective home countries, and features a small team of Allied forces engaging the Taliban.

    I'm a big fan of historical films and war epics, and have seen a fair amount of movies and documentaries about global events, conflict, armed forces and government intelligence. As an American, I love a good civil war story, WWII drama and CIA thriller. But I also like to explore foreign films of the same genres -- to see what these topics/events/stories are like in other cultures. Sure, we might get an occasional glimpse at an ally country (James Bond movies) or opposition/enemy ("Valkyrie" / "U-571" / "Hunt for Red October"), but these typically only give us superficial perspectives. So one of the things I really enjoyed about "Armadillo" is that it provides a unique, raw, behind-the-scenes look at what wartime military life is like in another country (Denmark) -- from how the families cope with the fear & anxiety of having loved ones in harm's way, to how their troops react in combat.

    Regardless of the "rules of engagement" controversy that ensued when this film came out (which I won't go into because it involves a spoiler of sorts), I was really impressed by how well-trained and prepared the young Danish soldiers were. I don't know why, but I wasn't expecting that. Although Denmark is much smaller than the U.S. (roughly half the size of South Carolina) and our countries may not have a lot in common, life in Afghanistan for Danish and American troops seems almost identical. They appear to receive similar training, use a lot of the same equipment, follow the same protocols, conduct the same types of operations, and have similar camp "cultures." Even the familial and societal dynamics felt familiar. While many Europeans (IMO) harbor bitter "it's all America's fault that we're in this" anti-war sentiments, the Danish civilians in this film seemed more sympathetic to the war effort, displayed a lot of patriotism and national pride, and showed strong support for their troops. I was sincerely moved by the (all-too-familiar) emotional airport scenes where families are sending off their sons/brothers/boyfriends to war -- and then eventually welcoming them home.

    As far as action goes, there are a handful of suspenseful combat scenes -- including one intense, up-close, bloody skirmish that involves several allied and combatant casualties. (This is the part that sparked the aforementioned controversy.) I don't think I've ever seen fighting that "real" where the camera was so close. At one point the cameraman, Taliban and Danish soldiers were within 10 yards of each other while exchanging gunfire and grenades.

    But this film is about so much more than action/combat. It forced me to think about things that I wasn't expecting, and it did so in a very subtle way. For me, that's one of the hallmarks of a good documentary.


    (Original review date: October 2011)
  • Janus Metz's documentary "Armadillo" focuses on a Danish platoon sent to Afghanistan. It drew controversy due to what was seen as the soldiers' violating the rules of engagement. But the main point is that this is what it's like to be in a war zone. The troops spend most of their time having either nothing to do (so they pass the time by watching internet porn) or having to shoot at attackers.

    What struck me was the opening sequence. It interviews one of the troops as well as his family. It must have been weird for him to grow up in peaceful Denmark and suddenly get sent to war-torn Afghanistan. Most importantly, the Afghans see pretty much any westerner as a colonizer.

    The movie doesn't moralize. It just lets us see what things are like for this platoon. The fact remains that war is hell. I'm sure that not even this documentary can show us the true horrors of the war zone that Afghanistan remains. But even so, I recommend it.
  • billcr1222 April 2012
    A first rate documentary following a Danish military unit at a base named Armadillo in Afghanistan, the director uses the perspective of the ground soldiers to tell the story. On an early patrol they hand out candy and toys to the local children and question a man about the Taliban. He refuses to answer for obvious reasons and the boys in uniform return to camp.

    These young men play video games and watch pornographic videos during the down times in between the battles with the enemy. One of the commanders is the victim of a roadside bomb, but after medical treatment for a skull fracture he returns. Three other Danish soldiers are not so lucky and are killed by a roadside device. There is payback from their fellow troops as the attack the Taliban and kill five of them in a firefight. The dead are shown on camera, the director does not shy away from letting the audience experience the brutality of war. This is a must see and sobering reality check, especially for military leaders around the world.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    ARMADILLO is a documentary about a company of Danish soldiers in Helmand province in Afghanistan, though it focuses on a handful of characters in the same platoon.

    The most notable thing about this documentary is the combination of the exotic and the familiar. Denmark is not a nation I know well but what was so fascinating about this documentary was the ways in which the young Danish soldiers were similar to friends of mine in the British Army- and also the ways in which they were completely alien.

    The documentary itself is well put together, mixing the lyricism of a foreign land with the power of modern armies and the confusion of battle. All of this was part of a simple story as the Danes did a single tour of duty. The camera-work was highly effective and the editing excellent. The film- makers don't impose themselves except when strictly necessary to explain events or details. Most of the film is told simply, through the words and actions of those recorded. It gives the film a powerful honesty.

    The most interesting part of the documentary is towards the end when the Danes attack a ditch and kill a number of Taliban. Later questions are asked as to whether this was a war crime, whether they grenaded and sprayed with bullets, enemies who were trying to surrender (or too wounded to resist). The entire event, in all its confusion, is captured on film. The audience can therefore decide for themselves. Were the Taliban surrendering/wounded? What would they have done if they were in the boots of the Danes?

    The best feature war documentary out of Afghanistan so far.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is and will always be the best war movie ever. A war movie without acting, a movie that shows what real combat looks like in the eyes of a soldier. From when they leave there loved ones at the airport to when they come home after 6 months fighting the Taliban forces in Afganistan. The movie shows strong scenes and close quarter combat like you have never seen before. This movie made me want to join the army more than ever. To watch these soldiers fight side by side, back to back, protecting each others from the enemy is just so inspiring. This is no recreation of a war incident, this is real war combat. If you like war movies this is a movie for you, no doubt. A beautiful movie.

    The movie had gotten some bad criticism because of what the soldiers did in the movie. I will not say to much, but it involves how they treated the enemy after they was down. My opinion is f**k Taliban. I enjoyed every minute of it, especially the scene that i was talking about. And to add a bonus, me and some other students got a opportunity to see two of the movie makers explain how they made the movie.
  • The first thing to say about Armadillo is that the main reason for watching it is because of how impressive the level of access is throughout the film. Following a group of Danish kids who ship out to Afghanistan (and this is mostly what they are – kids), the camera is always very close to what is happening, going on patrols, having meetings with locals and being right there when bullets start flying; even with so much footage from front lines in the news media these days, this footage is still impressive and really well captured.

    We see first-hand the boredom and the action and the reality of the fight and the "hearts and minds" battle. It engages and the film is well spread with action which is tense and dramatic, but the main thing it struggles with as a documentary is having a point to make. I suppose in this very partisan world, there is something to be said for the fact that the film doesn't seem to have a particular agenda but it also gives us a rather big weakness, which is that it does document what happens and what happens is nothing that we don't already know really well. We know that war affects the (mostly young) men who fight it, we know that civilians are regularly hurt, killed or just affected by the war around them and we know that in the heat of battle things are never as clear as they are later. The film shows us all these things but, because it doesn't have an agenda, it doesn't really explore or push them often – it mostly just documents them.

    So, for an example there is a clash between young men trained to kill who are excited for action on one hand but yet also have to be controlled and stick to rules of engagement. This is touched on by the guys themselves but only briefly, while other issues get the same non-invasive treatment that is engaging but because it is quite passive it lacks an edge that other more structured films have. Indeed this weakness is compounded by the feeling that we know a lot of what we already see thanks to the news coverage on events involving soldiers going too far, or being changed by their experiences etc, so the content of the film isn't actually that new or insightful, leaving the degree of intimacy to be the main selling point.

    For sure this is an impressive aspect of the film and probably worth watching it for, but it is hard not to want a bit more in terms of edge, direction and content on top of the strong yet passive documentation.
  • In 2009, filmmaker Janus Metz Pedersen accompanies a group of Danish soldiers to allied forward operating base Armadillo in Helmand province, Afganistan. The film follows them first in Denmark and then their six months tour. They are quickly into combat situations and things are lost in translation. The villagers are caught in the middle.

    There isn't anything particularly new. The action does get quite dangerous as the filmmakers go out into the patrols. It's an extended news report without the commentary. The great thing here is the film allows the people and action to speak for themselves. There are memorable scenes where the language difference get into the way. There is also some controversies back home about their combat mission. We shouldn't be surprised by any of this but it's always a bit shocking.
  • Premiering at Cannes 2010 and winning the Critics Week Grand Prize, Armadillo is a documentary that's surprising hard to be treated like one, with its picturesque cinematography of an ongoing warzone in Afghanistan from the titular forward operating base that's home to almost 300 British and Danish troops, and with a host of character soldiers that boggle the mind to know that they are not scripted, because in many scenes the narrative does look as if there's someone who had put in a lot of work with the devil in the details. Which is what makes it a startling film to sit through from start to finish, especially if one had served in the armed forces before.

    We follow a platoon of Danish troops who get sent to Armadillo for their 6 months tour of duty, beginning with the sending off from their hometown, where it's natural for friends and especially family to struggle in coming to terms with their loved ones leaving home to fight another man's war in a faraway land, especially so when the threat is very real and the soldiers are headed for the frontline. From then on it's getting acquainted with a number of characters especially that of Mads Mini, a Nicklas Bendtner lookalike, and an Asian medic, amongst others such as the fearless platoon commander.

    As mentioned, this documentary is so expertly filmed that it looks very much a fictional narrative, which it isn't. For instance, to the viewer it's hard to reconcile, not that it's a bad thing of course, how the troopers here seem more like characters rather than real people (kudos to the editing), and constantly brings to mind whether director Janus Metz Pedersen and his camera crew had to be embedded with the soldiers constantly during their dangerous missions in order to get the footage they obtained so up close, with the obvious element and sense of danger, exactly how and where they had to be around and yet not getting in the way should the soldiers get engaged by enemy gunfire, and not to forget that bullet rounds cannot differentiate film crew from soldiers.

    We get to go behind the scenes of this high-tech army (which I think SAF is trying to emulate with the 3G capabilities on display here), their professionalism even when the call of duty means mundane, incident free patrols of the surrounding areas of their camps, getting acquainted with their rules of engagement, and being very much in tune to life in a secured barracks, with their involvement pretty much in defensive ops to try and win over the hearts and minds of the local Afghan community. It isn't easy since they're being viewed as the enemy still, and more so when they go about their burly ways of trampling onto crops, or worse, to cough up compensation when things go awry, from the destruction of crops, livestock and property, to the more serious loss of innocent lives by way of being collateral damage in any offensive operations.

    It opens up insights as to how tense a situation can be when one is out there in the field where anyone, by way of the people's dressing, could be more than meets the eye, weapons properly hidden away, not knowing who's friend and who's foe since everyone's intent is pretty much walled away through the inability to communicate directly without an interpreter, and where loyalties still lie with the Taliban otherwise the villagers will be subjected to cruel torture once the Danish troopers leave. Improvised Explosive Devices also litter the landscape, and can be planted easily overnight by the enemy such that no trodden path can always be absolutely safe. All these play a part in the mental well-being of anyone having to live it up on a high alert status, with most events being much ado about nothing. Think of Jarhead, and you'd come to understand better what life on site would be like.

    You get to learn things as well from a soldiering standpoint with the experience these troops undergo, besides rushing to wait and waiting to rush, understanding how important or more significant the success of diplomacy is on the ground, and to read tell tale signs of enemy presence when civilians start to abandon their land to get out of the way of a major fire fight. Those worried that there are no action in this film can be rest assured, although the gun fights are never as glorified as what you've seen in war films, with the great unknown on enemy identities and locations being a constant pain, and a pivotal moment in this film involved conquering the enemy, but in the real world rarely does one get to walk into the sunset. It's a little controversial since the filmmakers captured an aftermath that won't go down well with any civilian, but for those who have been in those uniformed shoes before, it's nothing that far fetched when one gets caught up in euphoria (stemming from being alive or dead).

    In every theatre of war we get to know how soldiers who return never really go back to their selves before their tour of duty, and looking at the group in focus, that again is quite true with perspectives being changed from harrowing experiences gained, epitomized by Mads Mini who started off looking for adventure, but probably got more than he bargained for, returning a more sombre person than one seeking thrills. If it's an up close and personal look at a modern day active warfront, you can't get any closer with a more nuanced feel of being there and having done that, with Armadillo. Highly recommended!
  • The conflict in Afghanistan has led to an upsurge of documentaries on the subject of war . One problem is trying to do something different with the theme , after all chronicles all the way back to Plato have wrestled with the subject and I think it's safe to say as long as humanity exists so will war because it's an unfortunate part of the human condition . Once in a while a documentary like Morgan Matthews THE FALLEN comes along that focuses on the gut wrenching , heart breaking element of those left behind during and after the conflict . Indeed I have no hesitation in saying THE FALLEN is the greatest documentary I have ever seen and works on so many levels . Usually however a documentary on the war in Afghanistan such as the BBCs OUR WAR and the American documentary RESTROPO is done on a fly on the wall documentary style giving the foot soldier's point of view of war . The Danish documentary ARMADILLO follows this tradition

    One of the problems of portraying any war is that there's an unconscious parochial jingoism to the conflict . The average Briton on the street who has followed the war in Afghanistan will be under the impression that the only NATO soldiers in Helmand province will be British which isn't true . It's not the result of bad war reportage - or at least not the worst result of war reportage - that's responsible for this merely that news broadcaster will concentrate on units involving " our boys " hence a Canadian will think of Kandahar Province being policed by entirely Canadian units , a Briton thinks Helmand Province is an entirely British affair and an American thinking the entire NATO mission to the country being an exclusively American operation . If nothing else ARMADILLO shows it's a joint effort involving many different countries , in this case a 760 strong Danish battle group embedded with British led forces in Helmand

    What ARMADILLO isn't so good at is bringing anything new to the old cliché of war being defined as 99 per cent boredom and one per cent terror " and like so many other documentaries on the subject shows tentative soldiers moving through dusty groves then a bang of an explosion and the rattle of gunfire . What it does do is point out the problems that have constantly plagued the NATO effort , one that the enemy conduct their war mainly via IED in the hidden in the shadows behind a civilian population and a civilian population at the mercy of the Taliban . As a village elder tells a Danish platoon leader " If we tell you anything the Taliban will slit our throats " . Say what you like about democracy but it's surely the least form of government
  • Warning: Spoilers
    In an age of a declining number of war films and an increasing number of any such movies being agenda driven, the war documentary has or can perhaps fill a void of sorts. One of the strengths of such a work can be the realism that is portrayed, more and more frequently a major focus of recent war films like Saving Private Ryan or Black Hawk Down, yet no matter how hard a movie with actors tries, what's happening on screen isn't real and can't match the reality of a piece like Armadillo.

    In that regard films like 'Restrepo' and 'Armadillo' can be compelling viewing, no actors and generally a 'warts and all' insight into going to war, both these pieces providing ammunition to both pro and anti Afghanistan opinions. I found Armadillo to be fascinating viewing, perhaps principally because it isn't American, doesn't portray Americans and gives one an insight into proceedings well removed from the propaganda of either side of the debate.

    So young Danish kids like tattoos, watching porn and talking crap, undoubtedly little removed from kids in most other western or probably most cultures. The freedoms and excesses of western society are illustrated, perhaps merely to further fuel the resolve of those they are fighting against, but it doesn't seek to gloss over anything and the boys all want to bag themselves a 'Talibob' before they go home.

    The complications, frustrations and barriers to getting their job done are all highlighted, not knowing who the enemy are, not able to deny areas to the enemy consistently, having the enemy able to keep better tabs on them despite their own technological advantage and having to work with a deeply mistrusting and unreliable and uncooperative populace, many of whom express fear of reprisal for dealing with the soldiers.

    In that regard, both the questions of should the west be there and can the mission be completed aren't or aren't able to be answered and the film doesn't appear to really try and tackle those questions, criticised by some 'enlightened' individuals apparently as pro-war and pro-American propaganda merely because it doesn't.

    The villager that tells the soldiers that he isn't able to help them because the soldiers and Taliban are fine because they have their guns, yet the villagers are stuck in the middle and he would get his throat cut by the Taliban certainly suggests that the locals do have a problem that perhaps requires or warrants some outside intervention, perhaps akin to a local neighbourhood terrorised by a gang, but it is apparent that there is no easy or imminent solution, though having the gang on the back foot or with a little competition on their hands was not necessarily a bad thing.

    The climactic action of the film and the subsequent controversy around such further fails to offer any conclusion; and opinions on such will likely fall somewhere between ideology and reality. Without a doubt it must be a lot safer to cast judgement sitting thousands of miles away from the comfort and safety of an armchair. Certainly I'm inclined to agree with the guys that have to put their head in the enemy trench to see what's what.

    All that aside, as mentioned, I found this compelling viewing as an insight into both modern military and the realities of the situation in Afghanistan, seen through the eyes of a nation I doubt anyone would ever describe in this day and age as warmongers. It raises several questions that aren't or can't be answered, leaving plenty to contemplate or debate afterwards for people on both sides of the fence. Excellent documentary and recommended viewing.
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