DVD Review: Kandahar Break: Fortress Of War.

It’s 1999, two years before Afghanistan will experience the violence of Western liberation, and the Taliban still exert a draconian grip on the people. Working for a private firm, two Englishmen (Shaun Dooley and Dean Andrews) are contracted to sweep the war-ravaged Afghan deserts for mines. When one of them falls foul of the local police chief, all hell breaks loose, and a manhunt ensues.

Dealing with as controversial a subject as the rules with which the Taliban governed Afghanistan for so long could have been difficult, so it’s to director David Whitney’s credit that Kandahar Break feels neither like a leftist social commentary or a conservative warning. Rather, it boils down to a man risking his life (and the lives of others) simply for love. While that might sound like the synopsis for any retch-worthy rom-com or weepy drama, Kandahar Break is of interest because of where it is set. When mine-sweeper Richard Lee (Dooley) returns to the country to seek out a local woman he fell in love with (the pretty Tatmain Ul Qulb), he can’t simply sweep her off her feet. He can’t even be seen alone with her in the street, lest the archaic police force, led by a corrupt chief, stone her to death.

This dilemma is added to the fact that coming to Afghanistan to remove mines is like… well, treading on a mine-field. No sooner is Lee back in the country and he’s being fired on by tribesmen, having AK47’s routinely pointed at him and seeing an indigenous helper step on a mine. Clearly, it’s a dangerous place to be. So dangerous in fact that IMDB informs us that the crew were shot at while filming on the Afghan/Pakistan border, forcing production to relocate to Tunisia.

Afghanistan’s jagged, orange deserts act as a suitably memorable backdrop, and some of the shots really evoke the dry, dustiness of the place. It’s a shame then that some other scenes feel more like budget TV serial, particularly a moonlit car getaway that feels, for want of a better word, a bit Heartbeat-y. Both leading men are suitably blokey and British, with Dean Andrews (Ray from Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes) providing a familiar face, while first time actress Tatmain Ul Qulb more than proves herself as Lee’s love interest, Jamilah.

Ultimately, the film’s pace suffers a little once Lee is on the run, with many scenes of him scrabbling around on mountains feeling like unnecessary bulk. The ‘thrill of the chase’ isn’t quite there. It does however provide an interesting look at pre 9/11 Afghanistan, reflecting a time when you or I had probably never heard of the Taliban, despite their grip on the country. As for the subtitle Fortress of War? No idea…



© BRWC 2010.


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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.

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