Published Sep 07, 2011Recent war films have addressed the seemingly never-ending contemporary conflict in the Middle East, yet Canadian filmmakers have mostly shied away from presenting a take on Canada's involvement, particularly the Great White North's legacy in Afghanistan. While Afghan Luke takes a less political and more personal view of the Canadian war experience, it's an interesting entry nonetheless.
Afghan Luke is the first significant non-Trailer Park Boys work from Mike Clattenburg (working here with co-writer Barrie Dunn, another Trailer Park Boys cohort, better known to the world as Ricky's father, Ray). It follows an ambitious young photojournalist named Luke Benning (Nick Stahl), who is chasing the story of a Canadian sniper who he believes is mutilating the corpses (taking the thumbs as keepsakes) of Taliban soldiers.
Filmed largely in British Columbia, Afghan Luke is a war story adrift in a hash haze. The film's greatest strength is humanizing all sides in the conflict. Luke is accompanied by his pal, Tom (Nicholas Wright), a would-be documentarian who gets caught up in the odd allure of the war-torn nation, held in thrall by the country's high quality hash, and a USO-style entertainer he tries to woo named Miss Freedom (Ali Liebert). Luke's path is constantly beset by conflict, dodging bombs and backbiting freelance journalists.
Afghan Luke looks to be a manifesto, wherein Clattenburg declares himself a serious filmmaker, leaving the denizens of Sunnyvale behind once and for all. However, while the film does indeed come off as a more serious, more political project, it also cries out for a dose of the absurd humour and controlled chaos Trailer Park Boys built its rep on, and that Clattenburg has proven to be so good at.
Certainly it's nice to see a filmmaker challenge themselves, and while Afghan Luke has its flaws, it does a reputable job of announcing Clattenburg as more than a one trick pony, regardless of how good that trick is.
For his next act though, it would be nice to see him better utilize his unique strengths. (Alliance)