Rated: PG-13 for earthy language and violence. Reviewed by: Chris Release date: November 4, 1994 Released by: Universal Studios, Inc.
I'm a sucker for a movie that serves up realistic emotions and gives you a good old-fashioned cry at the same time, and this film delivers both, in spades.
Set in 1970, it's about a vietnam vet, played by Kevin Costner, who's been released from a mental hospital and his 12-year-old son, Stuart (Elijah Wood).
After his treatment for post traumatic stress, Stephen (Costner) returns to his wife (Mare Winningham), son and daughter, Lidia (Lexi Randall) in rural Mississippi. The family lives in a welfare house and Stephen can't keep a job, so things are pretty tough for them.
Stephen left on war behind that he can't for get, only to find his children involved in another, over a treehouse.
Stuart and Lidia and their friends build a terrific fort using odds and ends from a local junk yard. When the kids who live with their drunken father at the junk yard find out that their property was taken, the bullies decide to grab the fort for themselves, and the kids physically fight one another in win their prize.
Stephen tries to teach his son the valuable lesson that nothing is settled by fighting, but the kids keep the feud going until it almost destroys them.
There's very little subtlety in this film - every lesson is pounded in every point is hard won. The games the kids play are the most dangerous, the bullies are the dirtiest and the bullies' father the meanest. Even the treehouse is built in the largest tree I've ever seen as it could easily accommodate a condo.
The focus of the story is Wood as Costner takes a back seat to this expressive young actor. He's easily the best under-twenty actor working today. In fact, each of the kids is terrific. Their emotions, whether it's anger, sadness or indignation, ring true.
The story is compelling even if it is a little heavy-handed, and the acting is superb. "The War" is a tender drama with a good message that is very emotionally satisfying.