While as an action movie, 5 Days Of War is rote and cliché-riddled, as an act of pop-culture warfare, it’s downright fascinating, an answering salvo in a battle that’s moved from the disputed Caucasus territory of South Ossetia into the realm of schlocky feature films. A few months after 2008’s Russo-Georgian War, Russia released a documentary online purporting to tell the suppressed truth about Georgia’s culpability in the conflict. It was followed by the made-for-Russian-TV drama Olympus Inferno, a love story involving a visiting American biologist who gets caught up in what’s again shown as the Georgian army running rampant.
5 Days Of War is Georgia’s return volley, owing its initial funding to the Georgian government and listing a state minister as a producer. The film ups the stakes impressively, with a larger budget and only slightly dented Hollywood offerings—Renny Harlin, still one of the all-time top-grossing directors, though long past his Die Hard 2 heyday; Rupert Friend as a dashing war reporter; Emmanuelle Chriqui as his local love interest/thing to rescue; an oddly cast but earnest Andy Garcia as the Georgian president; and Val Kilmer nibbling scenery as a seen-it-all veteran correspondent. Accents abound, unevenly—Garcia sports one, Chriqui doesn’t bother. The dialogue trips over unwieldy exposition about a complicated situation before settling into a comfier divide of good and evil in which the Georgian soldiers are heroic and led by Johnathon Schaech, and the Russians by Rade Serbedzija (the hey-it’s-that-guy of ominous Eastern Europeans) and a tattooed Cossack who slits the throats of elderly ladies.
The plot involves Friend and friends getting footage of said throat-slitting and attempting to find a place to upload it while running from attacks and explosions—a goal that, when finally achieved, is anticlimactically noted to be getting a lot of hits at Human Rights Watch, which hardly seems to justify the dangerous effort. The combat, at least, looks good—the military equipment was reportedly provided by Georgia’s defense ministry. But the film is far more interested in its underdeveloped fictional characters than in giving any sense of the scope of or motivations behind the war, which is shown from such a one-sided angle that it seems nonsensical. As propaganda, 5 Days Of War is unlikely to make a mark, though perhaps the idea of reaching people through would-be blockbusters will. As the film shows, when the conflict first broke out in South Ossetia, everyone was too busy covering the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing to pay it much mind. Spectacle rules the day.