I Declare War should be an interesting movie. It should leave the viewer with things to think about. It should be a refreshing and original piece of film-making. It isn't. Why is that?
I Declare War is about a pretend war going on between two teams of kids. The movie begins with text that explains the rules of the war. The rules are that if you get hit with a bullet from a gun, which is really just a stick, then you are paralyzed for ten seconds. If you are hit with a grenade, which is really a paint filled balloon, you are dead and must go home.
To begin with, these rules aren't really believable. Okay, so the grenade one makes sense. If you get hit with paint then you are dead. The gun rule, however, just isn't believable. Since the guns are just sticks then they have no bullets in them. This means that when someone gets hit by a bullet they really aren't being hit by anything. Why would any kid admit to being hit by a bullet when there is no proof of getting hit? How exactly does one determine whether or not a bullet missed or not when it is fired? Right from the start the movie doesn't quite work.
Let's forget about that for the time being though. Let's pretend that the rules would work and that there are no problems with the set up of this war. Now we have a movie with kids fighting in a pretend war. It's not just a pretend war, however. This war becomes real through the magic of the movies. Sticks become real guns. The line between fantasy and reality is blurred. Well, at least a little bit.
You see, I Declare War never goes very far with its fantasy elements. Sure, sticks become real guns, but that's really all that happens. The kids don't get hit with real bullets. There is no blood or death. Grenades don't really become real, but remain paint filled balloons. There is no real interesting purpose to any fantasy element used in the movie. The fantasy elements just sort of come and go without leaving any kind of impact on the rest of the movie.
The transitioning between fantasy and reality in the movie is not handled very well. There really isn't any kind of transition at all. This could work to blur the lines between what is real and what isn't, but ends up being more frustrating and confusing than anything else. In particular, conversations between one character and another person who isn't really there fall flat.
I will comment, however, that the kids in this film are all good actors. They play their roles well. In particular, Michael Friend does a great job as the violent and angry Skinner. He is truly scary to watch. So the film isn't without at least some positive elements.
Having a movie about kids playing that is at the same time a real deadly war sounds like something interesting. There could be some kind of message within this premise. There could be something interesting going on beyond just kids playing a game. However, the movie never attempts to reach for any of these things. The movie never becomes anything beyond kids playing a game. Sure, occasionally we will be given the image of a kid with a real machine gun, but that is all we get. There isn't any point to any of it beyond kids just being kids. That's why I declare that I Declare War just isn't interesting.