Rock, Paper, Grenades–
It’s easy to draw parallels with The Hunger Games and Battle Royale for they both were about children fighting to death in the combat arena, but this film is way more than movie make-believe. I Declare War is a real make-believe movie, where kids playing out a simple game of Capture the Flag becomes something much more in their 12 year-old minds. The crudely made wooden weapons become the real thing when seen through their eyes, and the sounds of war can be heard throughout, adding to the overall effect. This is closer to Stand By Me than Battle or Hunger for a number of reasons, but mainly because of the rich characters. The acting was particularly good by the young cast and very natural indeed, all helping sell the story, penned by co-director Jason Lapeyre.
A group of 12 year-old friends meet regularly to play soldiers and they play in two groups, one led by PK (Gage Munroe) while the other Quinn. Skinner (Michael Friend) stages a coup by blowing up Quinn with a grenade (paint-balloon), meaning he has to leave the game, making Skinner their new general. Jess (Mackenzie Munro) has a crush on Quinn (Aidan Gouveia) but decides to stay and play, but she has her own plan to put in action. Skinner is a bully who after capturing PK’s best friend Kwon (Siam Yu) begins to torture the boy by crushing him under a board laden with rocks. He also threatens to cut his face open.
Because the rules clearly state (in their minds at least) that no one can move their base once established, PK makes a plan to capture the opponent’s flag, but Skinner has already made it very clear what he thinks of that, “fuc* the rules!” he shouts on a number of occasions to his teammates (and everyone else within hearing distance) when they try to point anything out to the always irate bully. While this is going on, Jess is working her way through the woods using chess strategy to capture both flags for her true love Quinn, and constantly fantasizes the boy is there talking to her, telling her how pretty she looks and how clever she is.
At one point we see Jess trying to sweet-talk one of the boys but he isn’t interested in girls yet and doesn’t fall for her charm. It was good seeing something a little different for a change, and also put together so well. The storytelling was solid as well as the clever dialogue, a lot of which was actually improvised by the kids at the directors request. That was a big selling point as it never felt unnatural to hear some of the hard-core cussing we hear coming from such young people, but this, I’m sure is exactly how children behave who are out pretending to kill and maim each other. We also see one of their number, Joker, using his laser-beam eyes to blow up anyone annoying him, which was often enough to enjoy a few heads being blown up in a rather realistic manner. A highly enjoyable film that is a must see for anyone really, not just boys who like guns.