DVD Review – Kandahar Break:Fortress of War

Kandahar Break DVD cover

The first thing to say about Kandahar Break is don’t be fooled by the cover, this is not a war movie. It is however, an intelligent thriller with a great cast, which deserves a wider audience.

Set in 1999, it focuses on Richard Lee (Shane Dooley) who is returning to work in Afghanistan after a break in Africa. He is employed by a mining company to remove landmines, so enabling fuel pipelines to be built. Based with his colleague Steve Delamore (Dean Anderson), in the Taliban controlled region of Kandahar, the work is highly dangerous, with the threat of rebel attacks, intervention by the Taliban into their business and the mines themselves.

To add to the friction, Lee has a female interpreter, Jamilah (newcomer Tatmain Ul Qulb), who has to be chaperoned at all times by another woman, Ayesha, so as not to break Taliban law.

When there is an accident on a mine field that injures Ayesha, it looks like Lee will lose his valuable interpreter, whom he has fallen in love with. When he goes to ask the local Taliban chief for special dispensation to carry on employing her, things start to escalate out of control, and in the space of less than a day he finds himself on the run from the Taliban trying to make his way to the Pakistani border.

Producer, writer and director David Whitney has done an excellent job here, the scripting is taught, the action well shot and the leads are all excellent. Dooley is especially watchable as we see every part of his life crumble, while Tatman Ul Qulb doesn’t have much screen time; she is a delight as the former UN translator, who sees both good and bad in her country.

Dean Anderson, best known as Ray from Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes also turns in a fine performance as a man torn between doing the best for his friend versus the best for his company. However, the show is stolen completely by Pakistani actor Hameed Sheikh as the Balochistani rebel Omar. Charming, witty, devoted to his cause and scathing of the Taliban’s actions, he arrives at Lee’s darkest hour, giving him a ray of hope.

Sheikh himself, as advisor to CNN, has had to flee Taliban attacks on several occasions and Kandahar Break nearly didn’t get finished as a result of a Taliban attack on members of the crew. During a night shoot on the Pakistan/Afghan border, four of the Pakistani crew travelling from the compound to the set were fired upon by the Taliban. All four were shot, but luckily all survived. Cast and crew were immediately flown back to the UK, but with only 3/4s of the film completed, Whitney had to work out how to film the remainder of the movie safely. Everyone involved in the film wanted to finish it and the decision was made to shoot the rest in Tunisia.

Whitney’s commitment to his first feature is to be applauded. Keen not to demonise all Afghans, showing the beauty in the country as well as the violence, Kandahar Break is a well-paced thriller that gives an new perspective on what is starting to be a well-worn path.

Kandahar Break is released on DVD by Revolver Entertainment on September 13th

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~ by moviegrrlreviews on September 9, 2010.

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