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Man at War: Film Review

Man at War Trailer Screengrab - H 2012

The Bottom Line

If you like peering over people's shoulders while they play computer games, this is the documentary for you.

Director

Jacek Blawut

Jacek Blawut's documentary follows the obsessive players of a computer game simulating World War II aerial battles.

Among the endless possibilities afforded by the medium of cinema, watching people play video games has to rank as among the least exciting. But that’s exactly what’s delivered in Man at War, Jacek Blawut’s documentary profiling various several obsessive devotees of IL-2 Sturmovik, a popular computer flight simulator recreating World War II aerial battles. You won’t be surprised to find out that they’re all men.

Other than that, they’re a fairly diverse bunch, encompassing a variety of ages, professions and ethnicities (American, Polish, German and Russian). Some of them have a more than casual interest in the subject, such the descendants of an American World War II pilot and a German Luftwaffe pilot. Others apparently just like to pretend that they’re strapped into a cockpit and have the opportunity to blow stuff up.

Looking on with reactions ranging from bemusement to eye-rolling disgust are the women in their lives, including one elderly grandmother who quite wisely voices the wish that her grandson would pull himself away from the computer already and find himself a nice girl.

After a lengthy build-up composed of alternating profiles of the various players, including a middle-aged priest/dentist who attaches Clark Gable’s face to his computer avatar, the film’s climax is a lengthy segment devoted to an actual game in which they all participate. Other than serving as a generous free advertisement for the product (which does indeed boast impressive graphics), it’s a  tedious affair made notable only by the players’ fanatical passion…except, of course, when one of them embarrassedly steps away from the battle to pay for a pizza delivery.

Production companies: Produkcja Filmow Jacek Blawut, HBO Central Europe
Director/screenwriter: Jacek Blawut
Producers: Jacek Blawut, Jerzy Dziegielewski, Aleksander Kutela, Anna Skonieczna
Directors of photography: Jerzy Rudzinki, Jacek Blawut, Michal Marczak, Jacke Piotr Blawut, Monika Wozniak, Arsenij Rapaparot
Editors: Jacek Blawut, Weronika Blawut
Not rated, 70 min.