Can one woman save Iceland and stop the envrironmental devastation from a large industry? Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir) certainly thinks she can, but is she ready for the consequences and the unexpected interpretation of her actions? The film’s universal message is an entertaining and thought-provoking one as the writers Benedikt Erlingsson and Ólafur Egilsson maintain a sense of whimsy throughout the film.
Halla is tough as nails as we meet this woman who reminds us of a Marvel superhero, Hawkeye, bow and arrow in hand as she expertly stops the electrical flow to an aluminum processing plant, Rio Tinto. As a major producer of this mineral and economic influencer of the country, her actions momentarily paralyze the region. The political action from around the world takes notice and with a small circle of friends who help her, she ups her game, intent on making people wake up to how we are devastating our earth.
On the surface, Halla appears to be a typical middle-aged woman, living life and teaching a choral group. Beneath that exterior lies a rebelliously intelligent woman with a heart of gold. Her goal of saving the world is a lofty and pure one, but as we soon learn, it may be at the cost of her immediate happiness. She finds that perhaps saving one might be as important as saving the world.
This is a gorgeous film as it captures the beauty of Iceland with its mountains, waterfalls, moss-covered lava rocks, streams, and indigenous people. Balancing dramatic elements and serious subjects such as climate change, dirty politics, the economy, and fighting big business with elements of comedy is a tough act, but director Benedikt Erlingsson does so with ease. No matter the scene, whether it’s running through the countryside away from her enemies, carrying out her well-planned acts of destruction for the greater good, or swimming with her twin sister at a community pool, a trio of musicians accompanies her. Initially perplexing, the band is there to augment her feelings and while the viewer and Halla are aware of their existence, no one else is. Additionally, we meet a hapless Spanish hiker who always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but this helps divert attention away from Halla, the benign woman who people think could never be responsible for such acts of “terrorism.”
The action in the film picks up quickly as Halla runs from the U.S. experts that have come in to save the political day and find the group that is responsible for interfering with the industry of Iceland. It becomes a cat and mouse game, heightening the anxiety of the viewer as Halla must use her intellect and common sense as well as her family connections, which if you’re familiar with Iceland, cousins are everywhere, to make her mark and save the world from eminent doom.
Geirharðsdóttir’s performance is exquisite as she expertly portrays a woman of both physical and intellectual strength. Her depth of character is equally extraordinary as she allows us to peel away the layers, revealing who she was and what is truly missing in her life. It is this element, becoming a mother to an orphaned girl, that is her crossroads in life. Again, balance is an element not only in the film, but in the main character which ultimately connects us with her emotionally. We believe in her, we are empathetic as she is outraged by the consequences of her actions, and most importantly, we root for her to win…one woman at war with the powers that be.
“Woman at War” is a gorgeously thoughtful, intense thriller filled with just the right touch of comedy throughout to give us an entertaining film that has social relevance to our world today. The twists and turns it takes will have you on the edge of your seat until the very end. Can one woman make a difference? Check it out at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago and other theaters nationally to find out.