I DECLARE WAR
I Declare War could be considered an updated version of Lord of the Flies (1990) in terms of the behavior of boys around 12 years old left to their own devices. The boys in both films have to deal with questions such as whether or not to adhere to rules, what constitutes leadership, what the obligations of friendship are, and religious beliefs. There are some significant differences in the two films, however, in that War takes place in the context of a game, and it includes the feminine influence.
The game consists of a “war” between two sides conducted out in the woods near the boys’ homes, each side directed by a commander. There are a few rules (to which not all participants agree to follow), such as not taking any prisoners; the captured one is supposed to be killed, and then must go home. Killing is done by throwing a paint-filled balloon at the loser. One of the commanders, PK (Gage Munroe) has never lost a war and has a string of flags to prove it (Winning is by taking the other side’s flag.).
As with adult “games”, social and psychological issues arise and complicate the process. For instance, the girl—who is surprisingly accepted into the games—introduces a romantic element that is not necessarily welcomed, even though most of the boys are susceptible to it. Not surprisingly, friendship and loyalty are paramount among the boys, and when one of them feels betrayed, the pain is palpable. Revenge takes the form of torture—although not necessarily against the perpetrator. Self-doubts arise, primarily in terms of how much one is liked and accepted/respected within a group.
The part of the film that is most striking is the model of leadership shown by PK, who holds it together until the very end when he, too, is in a quandary, and Munroe capably handles the role. During most of the film the character is a good model in his use of authority, his willingness to listen to another point of view, and his common sense. Realistically, he is human in the end when he begins to see that loyalty in friendship is not something to be taken lightly, and a bit of self-doubt seeps in.
Writer Jason Lapeyre and his co-director Robert Wilson should be commended for their astuteness in understanding and portraying human relationships at this age and the issues they must deal with. Young people are not given credit often enough for their wisdom and their ability to size up a situation and pick up on what transpires behind the scenes, e.g., why the other side has a new leader, which is just one of the strong points of this production. Another strength is the quality of the acting among all the participants. Siam Yu as Kwon especially shows promise in his ability to show different aspects of a character and its development across time.
I Declare War is a fine movie for kids that will pull for good discussions between them and their parents and other adults. Just as much, it is entertaining, interesting, and suspenseful.
By: Donna R. Copeland