TIFF12: My Thoughts on I Declare War

I Declare War focuses on a group of boys in their early teens, who are playing war games in the woods.  The game is essentially a glorified version of “Capture the Flag,” which has the boys divided into teams, who have to locate each other’s base and take their flag.  According to the rules, getting shot stuns you for ten seconds, while getting hit with a grenade (aka water balloon filled with red paint) “kills” you and you have to go home.

Probably the most interesting element of I Declare War is that much of the film is seen from the point-of-view of the kids, who view the game as a real war.  As such, the prop guns that the kids are actually using appear to be all-to-real AK47s and bazookas.  I should also notice that, from this point-of-view, the violence appears much more realistic than it really is.

The plot of the film centres around the general of the “good” team P.K. Sullivan and his rivalry with Skinner, the general of the “evil” team, having mutinied against the team’s previous general Quinn.  Skinner has a total disregard for the rules of the game and is instead trying to beat P.K. on a personal level.  He kidnaps P.K.’s best friend Paul Kwan and proceeds to, somewhat disturbingly, torture him.  It’s with this all-to-real bullying by Skinner, where you start to wonder where the imaginary violence ends and the real violence begins.

P.K. takes his role as general very seriously and it’s almost like he is treating this war like it’s the real thing.  All the other kids in the film follow some sort of war-movie cliche and part of the fun of the film is watching the kids switch back-and-forth between serious war talk and normal teenage conversations.  The kid, who stands out the most, is Jessie, the only female of the group, who has her own vendetta involving the games.

Overall, I found I Declare War a very enjoyable film.  While, it can be viewed in a similar vein as other “kids fighting each other” movies, such as Battle Royale and The Hunger Games, it’s also quite different from those films.  These kids take this war game and use it to resolve their own personal issues, definitely a metaphor for teenage angst if I ever saw one.

 10 | LOVED IT  

Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).