Janus Metz's unsettling documentary chronicles a tour of duty by Danish soldiers in Afghanistan. Set in a heavily armoured compound on the frontline of Helmand province, it takes a beady though nonjudgemental view of the young recruits digging in and getting to grips with a mostly unseen enemy.
The heart of the film is a tense, prolonged firefight with a cadre of Taliban gunmen, ending in scenes that highlight the gruesomely banal nature of war. The aftermath, in which the Danes analyse this violent engagement with a mixture of relief and hard-bitten humour (the one comes out of the other), later became the subject of a military investigation. "You have to be here to understand it," says one soldier, and you wouldn't doubt him – the shot of one of his comrades wide-eyed with shellshock is deeply troubling. Tin hats off to Metz and his photographer, Lars Skree, whose on-the-hoof camerawork gets as close as you'd ever want to the jerky, adrenaline rush of combat. As with last year's Oscar-nominated doc Restrepo, this avoids the wider political questions of what the West is doing here. It's simply a record of men at war, trying not to get killed.