Guerreros (Warriors) Review
Kosovo - 1999: As part of the NATO peacekeeping force, private Vidal (Eloy Azorín) is finding the assignment mentally gruelling. While they work rebuilding buildings and restoring electricity, the warring factions around them are still killing each other. Despite having strict orders to not intervene from NATO, Vidal tries to save some Serbs from a backstreet summary execution but his heroism outweighs his lack of prudence and is only saved in extremis by his entire platoon getting involved. Lieutenant Alonso (Eduardo Noriega) is furious with him as is the rest of his platoon but he narrowly avoids being sent home, thanks to Alonso's sympathy for his frustration. Early the next morning, the platoon is assigned to restore the electricity in a nearby valley but a bloody shootout occurs with the Albanian militia they attempt to disarm. Caught in a landmine-strewn buffer zone, the peacekeepers are going to be forced to fight their way out of this situation.
Though by no means a novice, Daniel Calparsoro has had little major success outside of Spain as none of his films have been distributed in the UK so far. Guerreros suffered much the same fate but, despite not being a masterpiece, deserves to find a larger audience. No Man's Land has already treated with great dexterity the problem of peacekeeping forces in the Balkans but Guerreros doesn't tread on exactly the same ground. The complex situation in Kosovo, with the Albanians exacting revenge on the Serbs, acts as a backdrop for a deeper meditation on human nature and war as the Spanish soldiers find themselves confronted with the irrational nature of war.
The script starts and ends very strongly but meanders for about 20 minutes or so in the middle of the film, with only occasional spurts of action keeping us focused.The performances are involved and strong but most of the characters are cruelly underdeveloped leaving us little time to form any bond with them. Instead of sharing their journey, one is left watching them from afar without actually getting involved in the action except in a few combat sequences. We end up feeling slightly nauseated by the violence but are not much further advanced in understanding its source, nature or reason. Technically, the film is very watchable with the cinematographer making good use of steadicam, close-ups, longshots and filters but the overall message gets somewhat diluted by the on-screen chaos. Though Guerreros does fail on certain levels, it still maintains a strong enough visual and dramatic force to push these issues aside, leaving us with an above average film that manages to pull itself together to make a coherent whole.
The print is not as perfect as I would have expected with a certain amount of white speckles and mild print damage in parts. These are mostly noticeable in the night sequences but are also present in most scenes. The colours also appear quite washed out at times but that seems to have been intentional on the part of the director. The transfer is anamorphic and keeps the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio with few signs of artifacting. Globally a good transfer but the print could have been better.
Surprisingly we only get a 2.0 mix despite the Spanish release featuring a 5.1 mix. The mix is good enough but some scenes would have gained with the subwoofer and some surround effects. The English dub is a US dub which is utterly dismal and unwatchable.
Though the film itself is given a decent transfer and adequate soundtrack, it is a shame no extras were included as I was left wanting to know more about what the director was wanting to say and the story's genesis. Still it is a good bare-bones release of another interesting Spanish film.