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The Daily Tar Heel

'No Man's Land' Analyzes Horrors of Trench Warfare, Blurred Enemy Lines

3 Stars

By focusing a microscopic view on a conflict most Americans objectively observed from afar, "No Man's Land" forces its audience to address the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina firsthand.

The film is the story of three soldiers (two Bosnian, one Serbian) who get stuck in a trench between the two opposing lines.

Unfortunately, the film meets a fate similar to its characters -- lost somewhere between a thought-provoking anti-war feature and a dull examination of what movies taught us long ago: War sucks.

The strength of this film is that while other war pictures of a similar disposition focus on one side of the story and imply that the same thing is happening on the other, "No Man's Land" illustrates the point by paying equal, unbiased attention to both sides.

Although it's refreshing to see a war film in which the "villains" aren't depicted as a group of baby-raping demons, it's an idea that has been done before. What's novel about "No Man's Land" is the bizarre situation of being trapped between enemy lines with an enemy.

The situation is complicated when a pair of Serbian troops plant a mine under Cera's (Filip Sogavogic) unconscious body, rendering him immobile for the remainder of the film. His pathetic whimpers about needing to go the bathroom typify this film's dark brand of humor.

One of the film's highlights comes when the director, Danis Tanovic, has the two mobile characters (Branko Djuric and Rene Bitorajac) bicker about who started the war and futilely fight for supremacy of their trench. It's both enlightening and disturbing to see how similarly the two soldiers view the war and its causes.

But the second half of the film, which focuses on the media's coverage of the United Nation's mission to rescue the men, is mired mediocrity.

The endless mazes of red tape and meaningless negotiations the United Nations undergoes to help the three men is carefully examined, but the film's pacing suffers as a result.

Much of "No Man's Land's" screen time is devoted to ridiculous conversations and hypocritical judgments by the UN officials.

The scenes illustrate the difficult position for individuals of the UN but don't make for very moving cinema.

The idea that people get increasingly amoral as you go up the chain of command of any large bureaucracy has been done before in many other war films -- and it has definitely been done better.

If Tanovic's interpretation of the evils of bureaucracy had been nearly as innovative as his view on the absurdities of war, "No Man's Land" would have been a great film.

Instead, like its characters, it's stuck somewhere in the middle.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at

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