Published May 09, 2013The rules in war are simple: two teams set up camp with a respective flag that the opposing team needs to capture to win. If anyone is shot, that person has to count to ten before they can play again. If they're hit with a grenade (a balloon filled with red liquid), they have to go home.
Each side has an established leader familiar with the strategies of the opposing side. There's PK (Gage Monroe), the confident perpetual winner and ersatz social nucleus of the schoolyard, and Quinn (Aiden Gouveia), his scrappy competition, hopeful to win this outing with the unlikely addition of Jess (Mackenzie Munro), a cunning girl with secret tactics that's more interested in gaining Quinn's affections than playing a game of war.
But what no on could have predicted was that repressed emotions and personal vendettas would turn the war into something unprecedented. When effeminate outcast Skinner (Michael Friend) throws a grenade at Quinn, his leader, he takes charge of his team and eventually captures a prisoner (Siam Yu), using excess force and verbiage outside of the lexicon of youthful larks.
Tonally, this overt metaphor plays as comedy, for the most part, with the kids referencing a variety of popular war movies and arguing about trivialities and friendships. While serious about the game they're playing, discussions about whether it would be worse to put your penis in a dog's mouth or go the rest of your life without a computer contextualize the age bracket and maturity level of what's on display.
What's impressive about I Declare War is its ability to reiterate the tropes of the genre, similarly building up tension and establishing complex motivations amidst the varying players, despite being little more than a weekend game amongst kids.
The implications about conflict resolution and popular socialization in today's youth are obvious, but not milked in a pedagogical capacity, leaving this modern criticism of sorts to entertain through sheer innovation and an astute ear for pre-teen conversation. (Samaritan)