Long before he scaled the craggy peaks of Mordor in The Lord of the Rings, Elijah Wood stole this movie from his more experienced co-star, Kevin Costner. Costner plays Stephen, a poverty-stricken Vietnam vet in 1971 trying to come to terms with his experiences. His son Stu (Wood), meanwhile, has problems of his own – the impressive treehouse he and his sister have just built in the woods is under attack from mean and smelly local bullies.
While this does use the kids’ conflict as a metaphor for grown-up wars and bashes the viewer over the head with the ‘why can’t we all get along’ sentiment, there is a lovely movie beneath the preaching that is well worth seeking out. Costner gives one of his most subtle performances as the veteran suffering post-traumatic stress, but the movie belongs to the children – Wood, Lexi Randall (as his sister), and LaToya Chisholm and Charlette Julius as her friends. Even when odd plot twists come around – such as a scary bit at a water tower –they handle them with as much skill and warmth as actors twice their age.
Is The War suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
The aforementioned scene at the water tower is a little scary.