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Danger Zone Review: Enlightening & infuriating doc

People in the street in the documentary film Danger Zone

Vita Maria Drygas’ Danger Zone is a fascinatingly imperfect documentary about egotistical thrill-seekers that has to be seen to be believed.

Some people get their thrills by eating spicy foods. Some get them by jumping out of airplanes. Danger Zone, the new documentary from Vita Maria Drygas, examines a bizarrely dangerous way for people to achieve a new kind of adrenaline high. That is, a disturbing new trend of “war tourism”, where the wealthy pay exorbitant fees to purposefully travel to active combat zones across the world in order to experience the thrill – for lack of a better word – of war firsthand.

The film follows a handful of subjects, from those facilitating the excursions to the clients who sign up for the experience. You have Rick, the wannabe soldier who was excluded from military service because of a back injury, who now sets up his clients in places like Somalia and Afghanistan. You have Andrew, an Australian-American adrenaline junkie who got into the business because he was “bored of life,” forsaking his wife and young kids to travel across the world and put himself in danger. 

Filling out the film’s roster of characters are Eleonora and AJ, two ordinary people who pony up the time and resources necessary to go on these experiences separately. Crucially, neither of these people are necessarily depicted as monsters, willing to exploit their clients or go against their wishes to be put in harm’s way. Rather, they all come off as misguided, moronically puffing their chests with illusions of grandeur, blissfully unaware of the real human cost for the events they’re witnessing. One moment comes as Andrew proudly shows AJ around his home and the souvenirs he’s collected, including a piece of a human skeleton, with the same enthusiasm as one would have for a baseball card collection.

The concept of Danger Zone is a slam dunk for Drygas, a chance to spotlight an almost unbelievable industry while making a statement about our modern thirst for unfathomable violence. You get the sense that all of the film’s subjects grew up on a steady diet of films like Predator or American Sniper or Apocalypse Now and completely misunderstood the messaging of all of them.

Danger Zone: Trailer (Danger Zone)

Still, it’s hard not to feel like there’s something missing from the film to really make it stand out, as if Drygas fell back on its premise and let things happen from there. There are’s a few moments early on with obviously fake interview footage framed to appear as TV news reports, specifically for the sake of exposition, that could have worked equally well as title cards. If anyone in the film deserves more time, it’s Eleonora, who disappears for long stretches and never really feels essential, but is an interesting enough character with an insatiable appetite for danger. 

Nevertheless, there are stunning moments that appear in Danger Zone that Drygas couldn’t have planned. Consider the moment when Andrew and AJ walk through a Somalian slum and simply hand out cash to the men and women they pass. The ending especially presents a left-turn development for at least two of the subjects, which could have easily been expanded upon but ends before really interrogating the lasting impacts. But, as it stands, Danger Zone is a fascinatingly imperfect documentary that should be seen to be believed.

The Kinoteka Polish Film Festival 2024 takes place in venues across London 6 – 28 March, and Danger Zone will be screened at the festival on 14 March, 2024. For further information and tickets, visit Kinoteka 2024’s website.

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