Critics' Pick

I Declare War (NR)

Action/Adventure 96 August 30, 2013
By Alan Scherstuhl
I Declare War's heroes are kids; its villains are kids; its fantasies are kids'. But its truths are adult. Concerned with nothing more than one afternoon's capture the flag-type game of forts and toy guns, and nothing less than the way armed conflicts so often become self-perpetuating gameplay ruled by the most childish of feelings, the movie, directed by Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson, features 90 minutes of kids plotting to kill kids. It's play violence, of course. The warriors pop their just-pretend artillery off at each other, but we see what the kids feel: movie-style muzzle fire and explosions from paint-balloon grenades. One team is led by cocksure preteen PK Sullivan (Gage Munroe, a born screen presence), a sort of neighborhood Napoleon. To capture his enemies' flag, Sullivan plots feints and ambushes; on the other team, Sullivan's rival, Skinner (Michael Friend), bets on the taking of a prisoner, schweeny Kwon (Siam Yu). The movie illustrates like few others the peculiar intensity of kids' adventure fantasies. There are some laughs, especially when the soldiers briefly break character and admit to less bloodthirsty concerns-- "Want to come to my house after war?" But mostly the film plays this as serious as any men-with-guns thriller, with death (administered by squib-like paint balloons) permanent and shocking. The performances are strong, especially Friend's eruptions of dork rage; his Skinner keeps ruining the war by making it personal. Mackenzie Munro is excellent as a young woman who learns she can sweet-talk her way through confrontations. She can shoot, too. The smart, funny, terrifying thing: Like all these characters, hers seems to learn how to be a grown-up from pretending to be a killer.
Jason Lapeyre, Robert Wilson Gage Munroe, Siam Yu, Michael Friend, Mackenzie Munro, Aidan Gouveia, Alex Cardillo, Dyson Fyke, Spencer Howes, Andy Reid, Kolton Stewart Jason Lapeyre Lewin Webb, Robert Wilson, Patrick Cameron Drafthouse Films


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