Friday, August 30, 2013

REVIEW: I Declare War

I Declare War

Gage Munroe, Siam Yu


July 26, 2013 (VOD)
August 30, 2013 (LIMITED)

Jason Lapeyre, Robert Wilson

Drafthouse Films

1 hour 34 minutes



Believe it or not, this is a film that I've had on my radar for nearly a year now.  After it was announced to play at my local film festival last October, I looked it up and the premise sounded incredibly intriguing: 13 year old kids using their imagination and everyday objects to play a game of War in the woods.  Unfortunately, I had to miss the screenings of the film, and after finally seeing the film over 10 months later, do I regret missing this film on the big screen.  The best way to describe this movie is this: if "Rugrats," "The Goonies," "The Sandlot," and "Super 8" were all combined together with the video game "Call of Duty," then you'd have "I Declare War."  This film is brutal, hard on the language, funny, sweet, relatable surprisingly, and just a downright awesome movie that deserves to be seen by anyone who is a kid at heart.

What I admire the most about this film is how deep it is for a film about kids playing imaginary war.  Screenwriter/co-director Jason Lapeyre understands the pain, humor, language, and imagination of adolescent teens and shows every aspect of childhood problems, from first loves to crumbling friendships, in a very accurate and realistic way.  As someone who has gone through first crushes and a big crumbling friendship, I have to say that this film got to me in a way that I didn't expect it to.  I also have to hand it to the young actors of this movie for giving it their all and delivering solid performances.

Instead of having pretty, glossy, and decently acted child actors, the filmmakers made a wise decision to cast, in my eyes, real kids in this movie.  Every kid actor in this movie, aside from maybe one or two, act, look, and feel like natural kids throughout, particularly in the scenes that don't involve violence of any kind.  Gage Munroe, the lead in the film, is somebody who I could imagine seeing in school and being friends with, despite our age difference.  Every child has their own agenda, whether its trying to impress a boy or just capture the other team's flag, and all are believable.  Even though the villain of the film, played by Michael Friend, is kind of over the top in terms of his decisions and his acting in general, it all makes sense why he's doing these things once the final 15 minutes come rolling in.  And believe it or not, I actually felt the pain of the villain, but at the same time was rooting for the hero, despite both characters not being all that perfect in terms of being loyal friends to their teammates.  Nevertheless, every child actor is great in the film, despite some being better than others.

"I Declare War" is one of those under-the-radar movies that I could see getting some type of cult-status in the near future.  All of the acting is solid, the story and the script are enjoyable and strangely relatable, and the direction from co-directors Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson is top notch for a low budget movie.  I honestly wish this got a bigger release than just a few Alamo Drafthouse theaters across the country, but I am extremely grateful that I got to see this film at least.  If you like coming of age movies, war films, or both, then "I Declare War" is the type of movie for you.  It's vulgar, brutal, touching, funny, and one of the best and will probably become one of the most overlooked films of 2013.

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