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The simple, unappealing name does not do justice to this fine film.
TxMike1 June 2000
Who would want to see a movie called "The War?" Not, me, and that's why I only saw this 1994 movie tonight, on TV. And I was pleasantly amazed at how good it is. Costner turns out to have a very strong "supporting" role because the movie really is about Elijah Woods' character and the other kids who find out about the real war we human beings seem to fight daily. Excellent mix of humor, action, drama, sadness, and triumph. The "dare" scene inside the water tank was one of the more gripping I've seen in any film. I rate it "8" but almost feel it deserves a "9".

Feb 2006 update. I saw it again, on DVD, and most of the movie was fresh again. After Costner's character was faced with killing people in the Vietnam war, he fully understood that love was the only thing fighting for. This is what he was able to pass down to his son and daughter. As they say, in any 'war', even the ones we may fight with our neighbors, we always lose track of the real reason we are fighting and destroy the things we value.
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The war without & the war within...
Morlock26 January 1999
It has been said that Vietnam is America's most unpopular war, but in light of both popular opinion and critical oversight, the namesake film may just inch Vietnam out of that role.

The title not only refers to the Vietnam War, which has an appropriate albeit very limited place in the film, but it also refers to the literal war that the children continuously wage with one another and the figurative war that rages within each of them...for identity and purpose.

Personally, I don't feel that "The War" deserves the press it received (or the lack thereof). It is a beautifully crafted film from its intricate, multi-layered story to its moving, realistic performances to its homestyle, nostalgic cinematography.

"The War" combines some of the best elements of "Forrest Gump" and "Fried Green Tomatoes." It captures the nostalgia of its timeframe, the innocence and naivete of youth, the situational humor of the moment, the consequences one's decisions and actions bring, and the tragedy of life. It even contains a couple of "musical" period moments.

Its structure harkens very closely to that of "To Kill a Mockingbird" (my favorite film). Both de-emphasize the star talent (Gregory Peck/Kevin Costner), who still performs remarkably and effectively in a supporting role. Both also utilize a (female) narrator who "bookends" the story in a quasi-flashback style, as well as plays a pivotal (if not the starring) role in the story. Each narrator tells the story of her brother and her father: their growth and what has been learned from and about them.

"Sometimes all it takes is a split second to do something you regret the whole rest of your life." What a great and appropriate theme for a film that few went to see. No wonder so many problems still exist in the world.
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It says a lot without actually preaching.
callaspadeaspade18 September 2001
This movie was wrongly overlooked when it came out. It has a lot to say and says it well, leaving the viewer with much to think about. It tells about poor country life in the early '70's from the view point of pre-teens. It touches on the Vietnam War through flashbacks and uses this as a study for the conflicts the children are facing. Their father is their link to the war. It deals with several kinds of hatred and its effects on the kids' lives. It also contrasts the kids' reactions to the father's.

Everything is done well. The children actors, led by Elijah Wood, do a really good job. Elijah was especially wonderful with the emotional out bursts he has to produce. Kevin Costner was surprisingly understated as the father and Mare Winningham is very good as the mother. I wish it was a bigger part. The part of the school teacher comes off a bit stereotypical but it works okay. Again, the kids carry the scene with their show of pride and willingness to stand by each other in adversity.

All in all, it's a good movie and good for older children to watch even though there is some strong language and violence. Actually, I think it's a bit mild for its PG-13 rating.

***1/2 out of ****
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Collins1 April 1999
"The War" is one of the few "kid" movies that takes itself seriously enough to be loved and appreciated by young and old audiences alike. I would have supported this film to the very end. After all, any vehicle that convincingly gives peace and love a chance deserves a little attention. (Peace and love are such rare qualities nowadays.)

The cast is excellent. Kevin Costner is a little stiff at the beginning but I think that's a good thing. Giving the younger (and equally talented) stars a chance to shine is a smart move on his part. He does get to cut loose in a few fleeting scenes. Also outstanding (when is he not?) is Elijah Wood (a.k.a. the next Tom Hanks) as Costner's angry, multi-layered, deeply troubled son. His frustrations are so well expressed that often times you feel like you could just step in and help him solve his problems.

What is worth fighting for? Nothing. Because as long as you have love, you have everything. Wisdom for both the kiddies and the grown-ups. Just be warned that the film does contain some strong violence and language.
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Wow! What an underrated movie!
Americana1126 May 2001
I never heard of this movie before today and I just saw it on TV. What a wonderful movie! I would recommend it to anyone. It is family friendly as well. I was very moved by the movie. As far as kids not talking that way, well, lets face it, people in general don't talk the way people do in movies. At least they weren't constantly swearing. Instead, they were saying intelligent and thoughtful things. I was really impressed by this movie as it emphasizes values in our society. There are many movies that do just the opposite and that alone is very revealing about our society. We seem to value sex, drugs and rock and roll above values and that is sad. The acting was wonderful also. Enjoy everyone!
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jseneca7823 January 2002
The War starring Kevin Kostner, Elijah Wood, and Mare Winningham was released in 1994. The film was fantastic and all the actors in the film were magnificent!! The acting by all involved was great. Especially that of Kevin Kostner and Eljah Wood. Both of which were worthy of Academy Awards, but unfortunately were not nominated. The film holds many valuable life lessons/morals. The movie is one that catches hold of you from the beginning and doesn't let up until the end. Yet, leaving you with a feeling that is almost unbelievable!!!!! The purpose of this film is to make us all think, and what more can anyone ask of a movie? I have seen this film many times and I enjoy it each and every time I see it. This movie is DRAMA at it's best with a bit of humor thrown in as it goes along. I must also mention that this is a very powerful and emotion-filled movie. I recommend that you pay close attention to detail if you hope to have a "complete" impact from this film!! This is a beautiful movie that all should see. I recommend it to anyone who hasn't seen it. By renting or buying this movie, you will bring a bit of joy to your own see it at all costs!!! You won't regret that decision!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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This is a terrific movie
shoshi11088 June 2008
I rarely like movies about the South because we're portrayed as stupid hillbillies, brainless boobs. But this movie treats us with respect, there is a loving tenderness to it's portrayal. I watched this movie because of Kevin Costner and loved it because of Elijah Wood's performance. There were a lot of great performances by both the children and the adults. I read the comments about preaching and sentimentality, well we tend to be a bit sentimental in the South and I make no apologies for that. This movie deserves to be seen by a wider audience. I like a big blockbuster as well as the next person but I love these smaller, character driven films. They stick in my mind and I mull them around for a while. I've watched this one many times and I still love it. The casting was perfect, Elijah was superb. The actress that played Elvadean stole every scene she was in. I realize some may think the Lipnicki's were hillbillies, but they were limited by their upbringing and would have behaved that way no matter where they lived. Whenever I spot Reinor Scheine in a movie I think about his portrayal of the Lipnicki's daddy. Unfortunately, I know someone distressingly like him. This movie is well worth watching.
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Straight to my personal Best-s
rexton17 July 2007
Today I saw this movie for the first time and I was deeply touched by it. What I liked about the movie was the way it makes us realize what's important in life. Using no great special effects and no incredible shooting technologies this movie is worth seeing namely because of the way it makes your feelings come out into the open. It makes you think of the things you rarely stop to think of. The actors' play is wonderful and I can say this is the movie where I enjoyed Elijah Wood's playing more than anywhere else.

"The War" is already in my personal Best-s. Spending two hours watching a movie like this is much more worthy than spending that time thinking of all those unimportant issues we are dealing with during all our lives. So I recommend you to watch this film and wake up your feelings.
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One of my favourites, albeit with some small flaws
aussie movie fan10 June 2002
This is my first ever movie review, so please bear with me :)

I first had the pleasure of viewing this gem of a movie in 1997 and I enjoyed it immensely. I now own it on DVD and consider it in my "top 5" movie list. The War is set in the summer of 1970 in Mississippi. Steven Simmons (Kevin Costner) has recently returned from Vietnam and is trying to fit back into life as he once knew it. However his time in Vietnam has left its scars (both physically and emotionally), and has placed strain on his relationship with wife Lois (Mare Winningham), and his children Lydia (Lexi Randall) and Stu (Elijah Wood), who are 12 year old twins. While Steven is trying to re-build his own life, Stu and Lydia are spending the summer building a tree house with the help of their friends, while trying to avoid the Lipnicki children, who take on the "local bullies" role.

I won't go into anymore detail concerning plot, as it may spoil parts of the movie for some. The length of The War, at just on 2 hours, is sufficient for the plot and all its happenings to unfold, but any longer may have proved to be a little drawn out.

The performances put in by all the main actors and actresses (as well as many of the minor parts) are quite good. Elijah Wood's portrayal of the angry but likeable Stu is very well done. With his angry outbursts, expressive face, and "naturalness" in front of the camera, Wood creates a very believable Stu. This is one of his best performances, except maybe for his portrayal of Mikey in The Ice Storm

Kevin Costner, in what must be one of his best (yet lesser known) roles, is very understated but brilliantly cast as Steve. The uncertainty that he expresses within own life, but also the wisdom that he imparts to his children in various parts throughout the movie, are very touching indeed. Many people are critical in their assessment of Costner's acting, but I beg to differ. This is because, a few months back, I rented (and subsequently bought) 3000 Miles to Graceland, in which Costner plays a mad, mean and sinister robber. His performance in this particular movie could not have been further from his role as Steven in The War, but again he plays the part with ease. After watching these two movies, his acting talent and the range of characters that he can effectively bring to life is obvious.

Mare Winningham is perfectly cast as Lois, the hard-working, determined and supportive wife and mother. She breezes through this role, one which is similar in nature to her part in Everything That Rises.

Lexi Randall, as Lydia, also does well, although is almost overshadowed by the performance of by her best friend Elvadine, played by the brilliant Latoya Chisholm. Elvadine's scene in the classroom (you will know what scene i mean when you see it) is one of the best parts of the movie.

This movie does has some violent scenes where children are seen punching and kicking each other, so it would probably be best seen by those 12 years and up. Director Jon Avnet creates a fantastic visual experience, very similar in feel to that of his Fried Green Tomatoes. I really love the tree in which the children built their treehouse - so old yet so stable and strong..... This is a movie that really lets you escape from reality, if only for two hours.

I have viewed this movie many times, and because of this have picked up a few little flaws. Continuity is a little bit of a problem in some scenes. For example, in one scene, Stu and his friends are soaking wet from driving what looks like a home-mate billy cart into a pond. Straight after this occurs the Lipnickis appear, and as they push Stu and co. away from the billy cart, we see that Stu and co. are practically dry. But this is being picky, I must admit. The accents are a bit off in some parts too - maybe the actors were trying a little too hard.

The sound of this movie i must comment on. If you run a surround sound system with Dolby Digital, the movie will give it a work-out in parts. Two scenes in particular:

1. where Stu goes to wake up his Dad. As Stu shoves his dad to rouse him, the thump of helicopter blades are heard in the background and become progressively louder and louder. The sounds stops abruptly when Steve, who is startled by Stu and presumably woken from a nightmare, grabs Stu and flings him onto the ground (as he might have done in Vietnam when defending himself against an enemy soldier). This is a surprisingly intense scene.

2. At the marble quarry - I can't give anymore information than this without spoiling things.

So, if you have a surround sound setup, your subwoofer will definitely get a workout in some parts of the movie. The dialogue is presented quite clearly, and the constant buzz of cicadas and crickets really give a sense of a typically hot and humid summer in the South.

All in all I would highly recommend this movie. I have read reviews where people have said that this movie is not very interesting and is maybe a bit too "preachy". But I watched this movie once with a classroom full of my 17 year old mates and they were glued to the screen for the duration of the movie. The War definitely has a strong message to give about war - those wars we battle inside ourselves and also the wars that are fought by millions. This is also a sad movie, but has a very uplifting conclusion. The War may take some finding in your local video store, but it is highly recommended. 8/10.
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More complex that it seems: Tough subjects treated with sensitivity and good acting. Haunting.
jabse11 August 2015
Though on the surface it might be seen as yet another movie about poverty in Mississippi (which is, by the way, the poorest State in the US) or about the impact of the Vietnam War on the family of veterans, "The War" exceeds expectations on several fronts: presentation, complexity, candidness, and good acting. The story is narrated from the point of view of 12-year old Lidia, played excellently by Lexi Randall, with the acceptance kids usually have at that age ("…we are dirt poor, like everyone else in Juliette, Mississippi" - she tells us right of the start). Though she is white, she befriends two black girls the same age, sharing social condition and taste for music, with some hiccup due to her use of language blacks don't like others to use on them. She is "tough" as kids in that environment usually are, yet "girlish" in step with her age. She is the one sensitive enough to realize how others feel and has the guts to naturally stand for them, though she struggles to understand her father. Her brother Stu, about the same age, played impeccably by Elijah Wood, is eager, as most boys at that age are, to get close to his father, and in the period they manage to do it he puts is heart in the basket, at great risk. The father, also played impeccably by Kevin Costner, is troubled by war nightmares and the lack of a stable job, but has the courage to eliminate violence from daily living, aiming to show it to his kids by example, against the pressure for violence from the environment they live in, and to be as good a father as he can in the given circumstances. The kids are at the front of events throughout the film, and the story brilliantly shows us how a rivalry with a group of poorer and tougher kids, centered on the use of a tree house made by the former with materials stolen from the latter, gradually escalates into a dangerous "juvenile war", much the way political conflicts often escalate into wars among nations. "No matter how much people think they understand war, war doesn't understand people", the girl concludes; thus we all lose. The War goes on at several levels: Kids fighting in the forefront, Vietnam in the background, and the inner struggles of the main characters, being this latter what truly gives depth to the story. Drama is sparkled with hope, humor and coziness, the way it is in life, with very few cheesy scenes. This movie is more that entertainment: it triggers our critical thinking, our capacity for understanding, and leaves a haunting feeling long after is done. Recommendable as a family film for discussion, meaning kids 12 or older with some level of maturity. Not for younger kids.
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Emotional roller-coaster of a film
ereinion11 October 2013
This film really affected me emotionally since the first time I saw it. I began to wonder how come it didn't make more noise than it did in the box office. Movies like this are certainly not every day commodity in Hollywood. It is perhaps Kevin Costner's best role and the most serious one as well and came at the end of his golden era, which in itself is rather poignant when you think about it. It also stars now-internationally famous Elijah Wood and the less famous but equally capable Lexi Randall as his children. The movie is set sometime in the late 60's/early 70's in the South of course.

The War that the title refers to is not just the Vietnam War which Costner's character has just returned from but also, in his case, the war to win back your respectability and status. And that's really what this film is about-everyone's fighting for status and respectability. Wood's character faces a struggle in form of the nasty Lipnicki boys who bully and harass everyone who approaches "their" territory around the reservoir with the water tower. He fights to keep his right to go there against overwhelming odds. His sister Lidia befriends two black girls and is therefore seen as a pariah among other white girls in the school and has to fight for status and respect, while her black friend Elvadine does the same but against even worse odds. Costner is struggling to find a job after not being able to get back to his old one and this struggle makes him very frustrated. But he never retorts to violence, except when the equally nasty father of the Lipnicki boys physically threatens his son. Yet he takes pity at his motherless children and treats them kindly even after they hurl verbal abuse at him.

It is a really emotional, at times heartbreaking movie, especially since the ending is rather tragic. Lidia provides the narration which enhances the dramatic effect of the film. Costner's touching speech to his son against violence and fighting is also one of the film's highlights and underlines the pacifist message of the film. It's a shame this film wasn't seen by more souls, otherwise maybe the world would be at a better state than it is. This movie should be shown every month on TV if it was up to me. It is about finding out that fighting never solves anything, unless it is fighting against injustice and with words, not fists or guns.
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'The War' now available on HD DVD - big improvement over DVD!
aussie movie fan16 July 2007

I admit to being a big fan of this movie, although I know it can be a bit 'preachy' at times. The War is set in the summer of 1970 in Mississippi. Steven Simmons (Kevin Costner) has recently returned from Vietnam and is trying to fit back into life as he once knew it. However his time in Vietnam has left its scars (both physically and emotionally), and has placed strain on his relationship with wife Lois (Mare Winningham), and his children Lydia (Lexi Randall) and Stu (Elijah Wood), who are 12 year old twins. While Steven is trying to re-build his own life, Stu and Lydia are spending the summer building a tree house with the help of their friends, while trying to avoid the Lipnicki children, who take on the "local bullies" role.

The acting by most is natural and convincing. Elijah Wood's portrayal of the intense but likable Stu is very well done. Kevin Costner, in what must be one of his best (yet lesser known) roles, is very understated and brilliantly cast as Steve. Lexi Randall, as Lydia, also shines at times, although she is almost overshadowed by the wonderful performance of her best friend Elvadine, played by Latoya Chisholm

This movie has a similar feel to that of Fried Green Tomatoes (both films are directed by Jon Avnet


The overall picture quality of this HD DVD is very good. For the most part the image is sharp and the colours are vibrant. The lush greens of the forest and the bright blue sky in some scenes look fantastic. There are some close-up shots of the actors' faces that are so detailed I just said 'wow' out loud when I saw them, and the scenes filmed in the forest display an incredible depth. At times this transfer looks brilliant - almost on par with the best looking HD DVD titles out there

There is some noticeable grain in night scenes and some sequences filmed indoors. There is also the odd occasion where the picture looks slightly soft and out of focus, and while contrast is fine in daylight scenes, blacks tend to look more dark grey at night.

Being very impressed with the overall picture quality of this HD DVD, I dusted off the DVD version and gave it a spin for comparison's sake. The difference between the two is so great, I now find the DVD unwatchable. You do not realise just how much better the remastered HD DVD looks until you compare it with the original DVD transfer.

From the first 30 seconds of this movie, as the camera pans around a large oak tree that is to become a central part of the movie, the difference between the two formats is like chalk and cheese. The DVD looks dark and out of focus, colours are muted and you struggle to make out any finer details of the tree and its surroundings. There is also constant and irritating grain. In comparison, the detail of the tree's twisting branches and bark on HD DVD is much more evident. After comparing the remastered HD DVD to the DVD, this has to be the greatest improvement I have seen when comparing the two formats and the same movie. Hats off to Universal!


First up, I was surprised when The War was announced on HD DVD by Universal, and even more surprised to learn that it would come packaged with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack.

This movie is primarily dialogue driven, therefore the majority of the soundtrack comes out of the front three speakers. However the rear speakers are employed almost constantly in a subtle way for most of the movie. You are constantly aware of the chatter of insects buzzing through all speakers – typical of what you would experience in the Deep South in the middle of summer. It is a wonderfully immersive mix that draws you in to what is happening on-screen

There are some loud and impressive sections in this soundtrack where all speakers are used to great effect. Flashbacks to the Vietnam War, and scenes at a water tower and marble mine are the audio highlights of the movie. These scenes are mixed at a high volume in comparison to the rest of the soundtrack, adding to their impact. Bass is strong and tight without becoming overpowering. Sure, the discrete sound effects are not as convincing as those on well recorded and recently released action movie, but once again it is an impressive mix for a 13 year old movie

The War soundtrack includes a mix of classic songs from the 1960s and 1970s (Cat Stevens, Credence, The Supremes, Aretha Franklin), and also boasts and interesting and varied score that is especially moving in some scenes.

In comparison to the DVD (which contains a 5.1 Dolby Digital track), the HD DVD Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack is a noticeable step up in quality, but not as great as the improvement in picture. The DVD soundtrack is actually not that bad to begin with (and is mixed about 4dB higher than the HD DVD), but the HD DVD version is more immersive during the quieter scenes, and definitely more powerful during the action sequences. The difference between the Dolby Digital Plus and TrueHD mixes are slight, with ambient noises and dialogue sounding clearer on the TrueHD mix.


Being familiar with The War already, it was a real treat to see a movie I enjoy viewing so much being resurrected to look and sound this good. If you want to see just how good 13 year old catalogue title can scrub up, pick up a copy of this HD DVD.
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The power of the ordinary people
yuxinzhao29 November 1999
I like this movie not only because I am a huge fan of Kevin, but also deeply moved by the power of the the family's struggle. This is not a story of traditional hero, but a kind of ordinary life of people after the war. Stephen used his love to his family, to his friends and his country to create a new life which was destroyed by the war. Maybe he lost everything during the war, his best friend, his house, even the respects by his daughter, but he finally used his powerful love to get the most precious emotion in this world. That is , fighting is only to keep the peace, to keep the better and better life. And all we hoped is nothing more worthy than the true love. I was very pleased to see at last , although he passed finally, he gave his children, his wife, not only the house, but also the spirit, the perseverance of the hope , the love of all the people. Sorry about my English, since I am not a native speaker. But after I watched this movie, I decided to write down these words, because I felt that I learned a lot from it. Thank you, Kevin, and all the castings to make so many people know the real life and real love in this world.
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A rather good film
sonofhades25 January 2002
With solid play acting by Kevin Costner and young Elijah Wood. The storyline could have been a bit more effective, and I felt the scenes from the war were so totally separate from the rest of it, they had little meaning in the film, the "madness" of the father did not appear in the film at all. Perhaps he was cured of it then, but somehow it would have felt better to concentrate on that aspect instead of the few action scenes about the war.

The end with the childrens' war was also a bit... too powerful, i.e. molotov cocktail's used by kids did seem a bit odd.

All in all, a rather solid movie that you should watch if you like a drama movie, but there are some better ones around.
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One of the best movies for the whole family!
trrichey45 July 2009
I sat down tonight to watch this movie and was amazed at the heroic story it shares with the viewer. Kevin Costner is one of my favorite actors his quite presence speaks volumes. You can look in his eyes and feel like you completely understand his character. Elijah Wood is outstanding. I love the different relationships and how the story blends everything together especially the relationship between the three girls as well as the father and son relationship. Every one of these actors got the performance perfect. The message this movie shares is beyond words. Excellent actors excellent writers and directors I highly recommend this video for the whole family. This is one of those videos you could watch a second time and enjoy just as much if not more.
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Another heartfelt and innocent drama.
OllieSuave-00714 January 2015
This is another heartfelt drama starring Elijah Wood, where he plays the son of Vietnam War vet Stephen Simmons (Kevin Costner) who must deal with his son's rivalries with other children and his own personal and employment problems.

The title "The War" is a bit misleading for this movie, as it shows more how fighting in a war can affect a person. The consequences that follow battling in a war and, more so, the consequences of one's own personal issues are dramatically depicted here. While I do not remember much from this movie, I do recall being impressed from the acting, especially that of young Elijah Wood. Just like an earlier film he appeared in, Paradise, this movie will make you forget your troubles and inner-demons, have courage to deal with your problems and treasure your values.

Costner and Wood make a great father-son team. A good little film with a mixture of humor, drama and uplifting moments, and with a pretty good-paced plot and a touching story.

Grade B+
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jowidag1 April 2001
What a great movie. This has gotta be one of my all time favorite movies. I don't know why I had never heard of it before, it's better than any of those new movies out there. First of all, what a story. It captures your heart, breaking it and lightening it at the same time. The message, or messages are clear. I don't see how anybody, after seeing a movie like this, could not be moved, even enough to do something about this dumb world we live in, Second, great acting. Kevin Costner proves once again that he really can play any part. Elija Wood, however you spell it, shows his talent as one of the best child actors in the country (although I'm not even considering renting "The Faculty" and I hated "Flipper"). But this pair as well as the great performances by the other actors and actresses expresses the depth of each individual character and why people act the way they do. Great movie, people. RENT IT TODAY.
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Fantastic Movie, perhaps a little over-sentimental, that I believe delivers some of the most honest performances I have seen
nz_wowzer23 June 2002
Being a good friend of Chris Fennell (Billy Lipnicki), I was walking through a video store when I came across a DVD copy and decided to buy it and watch it one night when I had not alot to do. And so it sat on my shelf for a few weeks and I nearly forgot about it. Until the other night, and WOW. I was so impressed, and amazed, that I had not heard of this movie before. Some of the most moving and natural acting one can see in this modern age of special effects and high paced action. I notice one viewer commented that it wasn't an accurate portrail of how children speak and act - but I disagree. I actually found myself thinking of moments in my childhood that mirrored those on screen. To me, that is the mark of a fantastic movie - if a little over-sentimental.
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So underrated
ironhorse_iv18 December 2012
Warning: Spoilers
"The War' is one of the best emotional father and son films, I ever seem. The relationship between Kevin Costner and Elijah Wood is just wonderful. The film deals with a lot of social issues such as the cause of war and the aftermath of it, failure in life, classism and poverty lines, racism and dealing with death. Family is a strong theme in this movie. Kevin Costner plays Stephen Simmons, a returning Vietnam vet who seeks to build a better life for his wife and children in 1970's Mississippi. Costner is great as the tortured soul trying to teach his young son the value of lessons he had learned during the war. There is a bit of Atticus Finch in his performance that mirrors Gregory Peck. Kevin Costner is brimming with positive lessons on social consciousness, but struggles to be a breadwinner for his family due to post-traumatic stress disorder from his service in the Vietnam War. While this is going on, Simmons children, Stu (Elijah Wood) and Lidia (Lexi Randall) are feuding with an even poorer family of neighbors, the Lipnickis, over access to a tree fort that Stu and Lidia built. Elijah Wood is not bound to his cuteness which is proved very well by his performance here and in numerous other movies as well. Elijah was such a great child actor here. No one like him these days as far as child actors, he just had that natural passion that exudes when he performed. This young man has his own battles and demons to face in an ongoing feud with a family of roughnecks and bullies. The talk between him and Kevin Costner are amazing. There are countless scenes which a parent can take out to teach their children about life lessons. One example would be the 'cotton candy' scene. Lidia is a smart girl whose imagination is fully developed. She processes her experiences and her father's wisdom in an essay that celebrates love, courage, and caring. She sports a great narrator. There is a sub-plot in the film dealing with Lindia in summer school dealing with an over the top racist teacher. Christine Baranski played the racist teacher, but her performance is so cartoony, but without her. We wouldn't have one of the best scenes in the film. The only other noticeable supporting child character would be Elvadine (LaToya Chisholm) and this is where she shines. Elvadine did a fabulous job on her monologue, but it is the last few seconds that gets me. I thought Elvadine's speech and cadence, gave such a great performance for an actress so young. Elvadeen is a hoot. While this story defers the movie from its main story-arch, it's a brilliant stand-alone plot line. The Linicki's children are brutal. The amount of child to child violence might alarm some parents. That's how mean people are. They thrive on making others feel bad so they can feel better about themselves. Seeing how the Lipnicki's father is, you understand why. I think the one thing the Lipnicki kids were jealous of was that Stu and Lydia had a father that couldn't give them much, but he gave them his love unconditionally. The Simmons and Linickis are fighting against each other over a tree fort. It's serves as a MacGuffin, protagonist and antagonist willing to do and sacrifice almost anything to pursue, protect or control, often with little or no narrative explanation as to why it is considered so important. It's represent how much people are willing to battle each other, over something so simple. The gut- wrenching whole story is amazing, sad but true that bad things happen to the good people. Pretty much shows how unfair life really is. Still it's the richest, most realistic and revealing story ever made about the moral challenges of parenting. The lyrical and spiritually resonant screenplay by Kathy McWorter presents the engaging portrait of a father who, through bad times as well as good ones, shares with his son and daughter the ideals he believes give life meaning and purpose. In addition, his compassionate deeds create a legacy that goes beyond wealth or words. This whole movie is great it really makes me realize the things I take for granted. I will definitely recommend this movie to friends. Fabulously written and portrayed scene from a very much underrated movie. Oscar worthy performances from the predominantly child cast. The music is great as well. Thomas Newman never fails to impress, capturing that emotional feel in every movie he composes and love hearing those 1960's pop hits. Parents are often hard-pressed in the midst of dealing with life's unrelenting problems to find the right time and the right words to pass on to their children the values they cherish. It's nice to see a movie that deals with teaching the children about morality.
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Well worth watching
neil-47617 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The War is a low-key period and mood piece, with some depth. It gives Kevin Costner something useful to do with his propensity to take himself seriously (often too seriously), but the film belongs to the young Elijah Wood.

Stu (Wood) and Lidia (Lexi Randall) are the children of Stephen (Costner) and Lois (Mare Winningham) Simmons. They are a poor family, aspiring to better themselves, but their ambitions have been obstructed by the baggage Stephen has brought back from Vietnam. The two children take themselves off to build a treehouse. In the course of this, they end up in conflict with the poor white trash Lipnicki children from the neighbouring scrapyard.

This slight premise actually generates a story which is gripping, constantly holds the attention, and which draws parallels between the war Stephen has returned from, the war which develops between the Simmonds and Lipnicki children, and which subtly poses the question of what is worth fighting for.

All the actors here give wonderful performances, without exception, but the children are particularly good across the board. And, having said that, it is not unfair to single out Elijah Wood. At the age of 13, he does not show the promise which led to later high profile roles: rather, that promise is already fully realised here. He is magnificent.
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Great Movie for Kids to Watch
BlackMountainSide5 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I read a lot of the other reviews and while a lot said good things about this film, some were also bad. One review said it should get an R rating because of the violence between the kids, but childhood brawls, fights, failures and conquests are all about growing up. If we censor things for the children we don't prepare them for what to come. I think this movie has a lot of important messages in it and I would suggest it for any parent to watch it with their kid. This was one of my favorite films when I was a kid, and although I didn't understand the post-traumatic stress disorder Kevin Costner was going through, I understood his angst and I had a better understanding of fights between children after I saw this movie. I did my share of neighborhood brawls when I was a kid and looking back now I don't even know of a reason. Its just something that we all go through. Parents shouldn't shun this away from their kids, after all it isn't Lord of the Flies. SPOILER* at the end of the movie it has a really important message when Elijah Wood's character risked his life to save one of the bullies, the message is that when in the face of death the minor fights between the kids were all forgotten in that instant- it didn't mean anything. It is also an important movie to show to kids for the Vietnam aspect. How there was a war for the veterans of Vietnam when they came home and soldiers have to deal with the guilt and whether they did the right thing or not- somewhat a good starting point for other movies like Born on the Forth of July and Jacob's Ladder. Other messages in this movie are racial ones, standing up for whats right, standing up for your friends, backing away from fights, and to treat anyone with dignity and respect no matter who they are. Also if you do watch this with your kid, prepare yourself, this like Fried Green Tomatoes is a sad movie. It deals with loss and hardships. Although this all seems to get a little preachy, but its good for a kid to watch because its all the stuff they have to figure out on their own. I hadn't watched this movie since I was a kid and I watched it again for the first time in 12 years. I have the same fondness I did since I was a kid and more so now because I can appreciate the wonderful soundtrack and score, with great songs by Janis Joplin, CCR, and Cat Stevens and one of the best places in a movie for Gimme Shelter. The score was beautiful and very inspirational from the very talented Thomas Newman. This was a wonderful movie that I would suggest to anyone- one that will always be close to my heart. And anyone who loved Friend Green Tomatoes and Forrest Gump will love this.
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The War - A Great Vehicle for the Young Elijah Wood
edwpat24 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The War is a species of film released in the early 90's with anti-war, anti-aggression themes that require movie-goers to commit to the view that the Vietnam War is a symbol for war's futility. It does this using a metaphor used often before-the loss of innocence; in this case, a child's. What complicates this film's approach is the child is not innocent. Stu Simmons is a struggling kid in poverty's grip fending for himself and family, while his war hero, post-trauma stressed father is trying to find his sanity. Perhaps, the father, Stephen Simmons is the innocent lost and visits it upon his family and, particularly his son. The film focuses on the need to put anger aside, forgive those who wrong you, compromise for the benefit of the community and move forward with the struggle for hope with joy in your heart. If it sounds like a sermon-it is. What makes this movie more preachy is Stu Simmons and his sister, Lidia's struggle to keep and defend a fort in a tree (a tree-house). On the surface, such stuff ranks with Lassie or My Friend Flicka, with a slightly more meaty homily and a different set of dirty-faced kids. Added to the message, in this message movie, is Lidia's attempt to bring harmony and understanding between the races. The only thing missing is world peace.

Despite this overblown capsule of Hallelujahs, The War succeeds admirably for three reasons-the focus on the relationship between Stu and his father; the continual development of Stu as a mirror image of his father, only a more adult version; and a fairly sound script, which only falters when it gets on its soap box and preaches. Any writer can tell you, "show-don't tell." When the script tells us the themes, it sags. When we are shown, it shines. Fortunately, with the exception of the ending, these snippets of hallelujah are peppered throughout and absorbed by the incredible performance of Elijah Wood.

That Elijah Wood carries this movie is undeniable. The viewer is captured by his skillful development of Stu Simmons and the final blossoming of the young adult. It's much like David Copperfield's journey, only ignore the Dickensian sideshow. The father-son scenes generally work, Kevin Costner giving a competent performance with only one scene with the full depth of his ability. Lexi Randall's performance as Lidia carefully blends her into her family image. You could pick her out as Stu Simmons' sister in a crowd. Unfortunately, as she has the voice overs, she get's the pulpit and the more maudlin lines. LaToya Chisholm's performance as her sarcastic black girlfriend, shines. Her timing, development and intonation are right on the money in all her scenes; and she dominates all her scenes. Mare Winningham as the mother, Lois, inhabits her role as the long suffering but supporting wife, admirably. But it is Elijah Wood's force that allows us to like this movie, admiring his style, intelligence and facial expressions. There's a Shakespearean caliber culmination scene, which rivets the viewer to the screen, much like being drawn into the vortex of the Water Tower, which figures prominently in a long list of visual symbols.

Of course, when one is preaching, one knows the bottom line. After Elijah Wood delivers his forceful scene, the movie travels along predictable, if not entertaining, lines. The kiddie War is quite adult; and the denouement, the bitter-sweet happy ending, is easily forecast. After all, you can't preach to the congregation with fire and brimstone without letting them leave without a benediction. The need to tie up all the various homilies in Lidia's closing voice over and her little why life is a bowl of cherries essay, could have been left to Laura Engels.

On the whole, The War is worthwhile as a showcase for Elijah Wood and is worthy of shelf space for his fans. His performance is a must for anyone who had only seen his later work in the Independants or in the massive Lord of the Rings. With an often solid script that has sometimes too much to say, this reviewer would award The War a solid B.
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An extraordinarily underrated, touching story about the depths of the human spirit
~AleXa~8 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Wow……this movie speaks volumes.

The War (1994) is about a man, Stephen, (Kevin Costner) struggling to make ends meet for his family after he returns from being hospitalized because of psychological problems (among others) stemming from being in the Vietnam War. Meanwhile, his son Stu (Elijah Wood) and daughter Lydia (Lexi Randall) are building a tree house with their friends and must deal with the local family of bullies on a day-to-day basis. I believe the success of this movie lies in its ability to incorporate many issues in everyday life.

The simplicity of the story just lends more credibility to the fact that you really feel what the characters feel. Stu (Elijah Wood), Stephen's son, is a character I believe we can all relate to on some level with all the problems he must face, and it further speaks for him that he must face all of this at such a young age, lending some perspective to the audience who are either still experiencing or just learning of such things as adults.

Throughout the course of the movie, Stu must learn to cope with his father being in a mental facility, his family's financial troubles resulting from his father not being able to keep work because of his 'condition', the local family of hillbillies bullying him and his sister, and finally losing his father. He must deal with such personal issues as 'does God exist, and if so, why is he taking everything from us?', forgiveness of others for wrongdoings, and finding the courage within himself to not fight the bullies, but show them kindness. In the course of one summer, Stu learns that no matter what people do, you should always treat them with respect, lead by example, and, most importantly, of the power of faith and love. Lydia must also learn of the meaning of sacrifice and how to deal with prejudice, adversity, and loss.

These two kids are very inspiring people—the world would surely be a better place if we were all a little more like them.

Kevin Costner is wonderful as the well-to-do dad, and reminds me of why I enjoy his films so much, and both Elijah Wood and Lexi Randall turn in amazing performances. However, I believe this movie would've benefited from better direction, but in spite of that, it still hits the spot.

VERDICT: An awe-inspiring, simple tale reminding us of what should be important in life--HIGHLY recommended to all.

8.5 out of 10.0
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Another underrated classic!!
goodallp-18 April 2005
Once again, Kevin Costner bucks a trend by playing against type and nobody goes to see it. Luckily, with DVDs, we can rediscover hidden gems like this 1994 drama, about a 1970's family on the skids. Costner gallantly gives up the screen to the precocious Elijah Wood, who proves yet again why he will go very far in movies. A beautiful, poignant film filled with wonderful performances and a sparkling screenplay. The War should have received a smattering of nominations, but again the short-sighted academy showed its ignorance to quality drama and gave it to feel-good pap like Forrest Gump!!! Never mind - check this film out on won't be disappointed.
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The nature of the dialog is authentic and believable
jparker-2028 March 2005
As a teacher of scriptwriting I am using this film to demonstrate the art of dialog writing in a setting students and viewers don't see often. The dialog is authentic to the deep south, believable, has just the right amount of profanity and colloquial terminology, and is character specific. You can't easily exchange the speeches between characters and have scenes that work despite the fact all the characters are from the same rural community--try it and you'll see what I mean. In addition, the structure of the film is a fascinating study with its multi-layered plotting and casual way the story begins to unfold. At first, it seems this is a film without a plot--just a series of character studies--but the plotting eventually becomes apparent and its complex structure involves the viewer without grabbing you with a hook or obvious "problem to solve." Overall it's a fine example of how to write an involving, insightful message film.
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