There is no resemblance to the pro-Empire British war films of yesteryear in Kajaki. Nor is there the pro-war, patriotic element of contemporary combat films like American Sniper. Completely apolitical regarding Afghanistan and military involvement in the Middle East, Kajaki is a brutal, tense and very real telling of a gruesome event where the enemy was not identifiable but hidden. It is this key point that makes this film so incredibly terrifying. Real people, real lives and real danger.
It could have fallen so easily into being a standard war film dominated by skittery handheld camera, stern, stereotypically masculine characters and a thumpingly emotional soundtrack. However, what director Paul Katis and writer (Tom Williams) have done is created a true and respectful account of what happened to these men. They are not treated as heroes or idols. instead they are treated as human beings. Cinematographer Chris Goodger takes a realistic approach to events and acting is natural, the dialogue closely mimicking life amongst a male group. the men manage to pull jokes and they manage to laugh, even when they are most broken. When one of them does eventually make a moving speech about not giving up and keeping home in mind, he is fobbed off by his mates for being dramatic – a comic jab at the very medium the story is being relayed through.
The characters then, are genuinely likeable and relatable. The stellar cast of British names like Mark Stanley (Game of Thrones) share a wonderfully honest rapport, their cheerful chatter and awareness of one another making moments of chaos and physical pain seem all the more harrowing. The tortured screams and the gruesome injuries become truly upsetting and devastating.
Kajaki is a sublime low budget war film. It’s a well needed update from the old war film format ‘goodie vs baddie’.