Review: I Declare War / Cert: 15 / Director: Jason Lapeyre, Robert Wilson / Screenplay: Jason Lapeyre / Starring: Siam Hu, Kolton Stewart, Gage Munroe / UK Release Date: May 9th
Who doesn't wish they could still spend their days playing guns in the woods on long hot summer days with their buddies? I Declare War takes you back to childhood, mixing the reality of sticks, stones and name-calling with the fantasy of real guns, real explosions and real war. With red liquid-filled balloons at the ready, when these kids clash there will most definitely be blood. But as tempers fray, insecurities rise and jealousy boils, will the wounds be real or fake?
A group of 12 year old friends play 'Capture the Flag' in the woods, armed only with sticks, balloons and a simple set of rules to stick by. Their imagination fills in the blanks and I Declare War treats their rivalry as reality with real risk injected by the presence of genuine guns in their hands instead of the twigs they actually hold. P.K. (Munroe) leads one group with knowledge of generals from Patton to Napoleon ingrained in his brain. On the opposing team are leader Quinn (Aidan Gouveia), mutinous Skinner (Michael Friend) and the only girl of the group; Jess (Mackenzie Munro).
I Declare War has everything a good war movie should. There is friendship, rivalry, conflict, heartbreak, strategy and sacrifice. In the minds of these kids, the war, the weapons and the stakes are as real as the emotions they feel while playing them. It's like Lord of the Flies but the kids can just go home anytime or The Hunger Games without the very real threat of death. Call of Duty has nothing on the power of their imaginations.
Some take it far more seriously than others; P.K. is a little boy on a big power trip and Skinner is letting resentment and insecurity affect his ability to play by the rules. Meanwhile when Jess wants a juice break, she simply stops playing and takes a juice break.
From P.K. to Paul to Skinner and Jess, the characters are neatly drawn but the script never reaches out to make any bigger or bolder statements about the games they play. The performances and script make the boys and girls come to life with as much verve as their vivid daydreams but at the end of the day, I Declare War is forever just child's play.
There are moments where the threat of real violence rears its ugly head and as a result there is some tension as the war builds through minor skirmishes to bigger battles and finally a showdown. However I Declare War is really all about immersion in imagination. From the opening sounds of helicopters and gun shots to the laser gun eyes of one boy, these kids rarely step out of the world they create in their heads. Their emotions may be real but the violence and the threat rarely is. Co-directors Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson excel at blending fantasy and reality but stop short of making these kid's games mean anything. Like playing war in the woods then, watching I Declare War is mostly harmless fun; at times tense and exciting but most importantly far more enjoyable than sitting at home playing a video game.
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10