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5 Mushroom Heads
Like most people with military experience I find conventional war films a bit irritating – Implausible plot lines and ridiculous dialogue along with inaccurate uniforms and weapons tend to detract from the overall ‘artistic’ impression. The recently released movie Kajaki – the true story is, in my opinion, the exception to this general trend, and an important contribution to the national mood of reflection on the Afghan conflict.

Directed by Paul Katis, an accomplished film-maker, in the genre of educational and instructional movies, rather than big screen releases, the film is grittily authentic, right down to the banter between the blokes, the detail on the T shirts and the tattoos.

The incident will be familiar to many – in 2006 a patrol from 3 Para stationed at the Kajaki dam wander inadvertently into a legacy minefield from the soviet era with the inevitable unpleasant consequences. What sets this film apart from the crowd is the complete lack of sanitised pastiche violence and a storyline that sticks as closely as possible to the known facts, having had access and co-operation from the surviving members of the patrol, if not from the MOD itself. The movie scrupulously avoids being drawn into discussions about the controversies of the Afghan campaign and the level of resources supplied to the deployed forces, preferring instead to focus completely on the individual soldiers and the events of the day.

As a surgeon with extensive experience of landline injuries, I was hugely impressed with the level of detail in the depiction and treatment of the injuries and the completely unsentimental depiction of the actions that day. Whilst servicemen and women will be impressed with the attention to detail, some viewers (especially civilians) may find the whole thing a bit shocking – in my view that is no bad thing. Writing in the Sun, Jeremy Clarkson explained that even though he had taken an interest in the Afghan conflict and had been out to see soldiers on deployment, he had absolutely no idea what the reality of battle and injury entailed until he saw the film. I am certain that many civilians and even some serving servicemen will feel the same after seeing the Kajaki movie.

Having been released at the same time as the annual ceremonies of remembrance and, co-incidentally, at the same time as the centenary of the First world war and the drawdown from Afghanistan, it is important to remind the UK population that war is not all about artistic installations at the Tower of London, beautiful though those may be. With the Army having the lowest headcount in over a century, the population it serves is more disconnected than ever from the military – Kajaki conveniently reminds everyone about the realities of conflict.

Dan Jarvis MP, himself a former Parachute Regiment officer brought up this very point at Defence Questions in the House of Commons and secured an assurance from the Defence Secretary that he would see the film in person. It should be required viewing for a far wider audience.

Kajaki – the true story is showing at Vue cinemas across the UK – 20% discount for serving forces on presentation of ID
Airborne Surgeon
First release
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