There aren't many times when the Oscar academy gets it right, and gives awards to the people and films that are the best, normally it seems to give them to those it deems worthy or those it forgot the previous year. But every so often it does get it right and, without the 'best foreign film Oscar' tag on it, No Mans Land, could so easily have been lost in the lack of distribution that is the fate of so many other fantastic pieces of European cinema.
Fortunately the 5000 or so people that actually vote on what could be considered the world's most famous awards managed to see through the overwhelming press for the sickly sweet bubblegum fluff that was Amelie and give the Oscar to one of the best war films ever made.
The first point to be made is that it is a war film. That means blood, bullets, tanks and bombs, but, given it's setting and plot, it's surprisingly light on graphic violence and shocking imagery. What disturbing material that is there, is in the concepts, plot and dark humour.The film is set during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia and several people on the ground at the time have commented that it does portray a realistic image of what the war was like.
Two men, one from each side, are trapped in no-mans land between the enemy front lines, and the film follows roughly a day, in the complex negotiations to get them out, in the meaningless definitions of the UN's mandate, in the changing relationship between the men and in the journalistic vultures who descend on the story with out ever seeing the real story.
It has been compared to M*A*S*H* and certainly it does have similar threads of the futility and humour to the Altman classic but No Man's Land is darker, blacker and without much of the sense of hope. You sense that even rescue will not now change the course of these men's lives.
It is not a throwaway hollywood beat-em-up war film and do not expect to come out of the cinema t hinking 'that was a nice way to spend an evening. Pizza?'. It will make you think and question and it will make an impact on you. but all cinema should.
Ultimately the film is an indictment on the pointlessness and farcity of war, on the ridiculousness of making your neighbour your enemy and on trying to not get involved.