Without going into any spoilers the plot gets deeper and more complex than that and if you’re familiar with the genre it’s possible you can already see the various twists coming, but I was genuinely surprised and I like that. 'Born of War' is the second ﬁlm from rising star (I hate that phrase) Vicky Jewson. Now I am fully familiar with Vicky’s story, I remember all the reports when she started her ﬁrst ﬁlm at just eighteen. Being as I am the same age, just a few months separate us, she seemed to be living the dream and was and inspiration to my younger self. Admittedly when it comes to Vicky’s ﬁrst ﬁlm, 'Lady Godiva', her age is largely considered the only noteworthy thing about the ﬁlm, but I’m hesitant to dismiss someone just because they didn’t get it right the ﬁrst time, it was more than I had managed after all.
This second attempt whilst far from ﬂawless is certainly an improvement and it would appear the action thriller genre is a far more comfortable place for Jewson. Let’s get the politics out of the way, yes this is an action ﬁlm with a female lead, the tightness of whose catsuit is not the primary selling point, by a female director and no those two things don’t happen nearly enough, in fact I can’t immediately think of another time that combination has actually ever happened. I’m not here to debate sexism, good is good and bad is bad, and whilst there’s certainly something positive to be taken away from this I’m here to talk about the ﬁlm on it’s own merits.
I will say that the opening set piece, whilst well staged, is largely unnecessary and gives the audience a lot of information which is later played off as part of the mystery, meaning we waste a fair amount of time revealing stuff that wasn’t particularly hidden in the ﬁrst place, possibly at the expense of other more important characterisation that is most deﬁnitely missing.
If it sounds like I’m conﬂicted on 'Born of War' it’s because I am. For every nice thing I can think to say about the ﬁlm a negative point pops up to cancel it out. Beautiful staging - uninspiring cinematography; strong female lead - lack of characterisation across the rest of the cast; neat, clever, twisting plot - uninteresting dialogue and a villain who, to be blunt, is just boring. The action set pieces are all well thought out but seem to have been victims of a lack of rehearsal time, and the ﬁlm as a whole just lacks that ﬁnal coat of paint.
The biggest problem with 'Born of War' is perhaps that it looks cheap, which feels like a low blow to a low budget independent movie. The cinematography is frequently hindered by the limits of the locations, as I said already the action could have been a lot smoother in places and the sound mix could deﬁnitely do with another pass. The one area that wasn’t neglected is the design, the middle east locations are used to great effect, the set pieces are well thought out and there’s even a Bond-style end boss ﬁght on a swanky private jet. If only the practicalities of all this superﬁcial loveliness had been given the same attention we might be looking at something really incredible, as it is we’re just looking at a ﬁlm that tries hard but doesn’t quite make it all the way to the ﬁnish line.
This slowly began to activate the cynic in me and much like the Hulk he often threatens to break free and wreak havoc on the surrounding population, don’t poke the bear as they say. Biting off more than you can chew is a mistake not an excuse, and having now seen the ﬁlm I can say that more has been accomplished with less. That being said I’ve certainly seen less accomplished with more and the accomplishments of 'Born of War' are not to be sniffed at, ﬂawed though it may be.
I’m hesitant to call this ﬁlm good. Ultimately I think it falls short of that for me but it certainly isn’t boring and for what it is it’s quite impressive; well deserving of ﬁnding an audience, which I don’t doubt it will. The production as a whole felt like a team trying their hardest but through lack of time, experience … and yes … money, couldn’t quite achieve what they were after. But I’ll take sincere effort over genuine incompetence any day, a few more Vicky Jewson’s making action ﬁlms and a few less Michael Bays and we might be getting somewhere.
See this review on The Fan Carpet.