There aren’t many images more disturbing than that of children playing with heavy artillery — let alone an entire film showcasing it.
“I Declare War” depicts a group of children perceiving their game of Capture The Flag as a fully-fledged war; with their imagination transforming their makeshift equipment into real weapons. Set in the woods, two teams consisting of boys and one girl impersonate military tactics to deceive and distract their opponents with the intention of capturing each other’s flag. However, that intention is quickly forgotten with the opportunity to seek revenge on the triumphant team.
The storyline involves a blend of precocious children speaking in military jargon and a range of mostly unsuccessful ploys to set the opposing team back. As a film that aims to portray the true nature of children, this emphasis on war hardly satisfies that. The filmmakers would be better off claiming their intent to indirectly show the destructive effects that war in the news and in entertainment has on adolescents.
Another shortcoming is the use or misuse of modern sound and visual effects to portray the children’s dramatic imagination. The laser beam vision and realistic explosions are all part of an honest attempt to translate juvenile behaviour into an art form but ultimately detracts from the film’s purpose, if any. Despite the professional editing, the film appeared closer to a school project gone wrong, rather than an actual cinematic production.
Along with a disconcerting plot, the prepubescent actors struggled to fill their roles – again a factor of portraying children in warlike situations. The highlight of the cast was the boy who actually proved he had a strategy without saying a single word in the film; unlike the rest of the characters, who verbally compensated for their lack of skill. Even the dialogue between the children was glaringly scripted rather than a reflection of they way most adolescents communicate.
If compared to popular films, such as “Lord of the Flies” and “The Lost Boys”, which depict the young in their organically aggressive state, “I Declare War” taints the perspective of children by instilling an external, artificial vision of war as child’s play.
I Declare War is in UK cinemas from May 9