War Blade is a satisfactory action film with decent acting. Despite a thin story, it features solid production design and cinematography worth watching.
War Blade is Nicholas Winter’s first war film, and he delivers a satisfactory experience about a rag-tag group of spies attempting to infiltrate a hidden Nazi bunker. Joseph Millson stars as Robert Banks; he is supported by Rebecca Scott as Ivy Lavigne and Alina Tamara as Saskia Steinfeld. While War Blade features decent acting and some captivating, intense moments, the overall concept is somewhat thin and small-scale, lending to a weaker story and conclusion.
War Blade features an intriguing opening scene, which is well shot and tense—the best moment in the film. The first and second acts dwell in this intrigue, while introducing the group’s main goal: espionage. As they build their team, they recognize a lack of trust among themselves. The stakes of their mission, however, transcend their mistrust and disdain for each other. A few of the characters in this entourage have good character development—Banks and Steinfeld being the most interesting and vital to the plot—but lack of development for others makes some of them seem to be haphazardly dropped into the story. With a runtime of 94 minutes, perhaps it could have been lengthened to include backstories of other characters to add depth to the entourage’s mission.
The production design in this film is well done, thanks to Jamie Foote, who also contributed to Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw and Spectre. Whether in pristine British buildings at the film’s beginning or grimy hallways in the Nazi bunker, Foote’s work supports the desired aesthetic of every moment. Unfortunately, War Blade does not feature much investment in the special effects department. Battle scenes involving gunfire look decent, but most explosions in the film are low-grade, taking the viewer away from many scenes’ intensity. This is ultimately the film’s shortcoming, as its climax is hindered by subpar special effects.
Though it involves controversies between the English and French in the group, War Blade’s small story inadvertently places the impact of World War II and Nazi Germany in an equally small bubble. At certain points, this is an advantage, as it brings a personal aspect to those involved in the war. At others, however, it severely limits the stakes and scale of the film’s central topic. Arriving at the film’s climax, then, the payoff feels cheap and thin. The film’s strongest points lie in mystery, espionage, and personal development. When it attempts to place its story in the larger scale of Nazi Germany, it underdelivers.
Nevertheless, the acting and production design in War Blade carried it to several festival awards in 2023, including Millson’s Best Actor award at the London Movie Awards and Winter’s Best Director award at the Bright International Film Festival. War Blade is a satisfactory action film with surprising performances from Rebecca Scott and Alina Tamara, despite a thin story. It features solid production design and cinematography and, aside from subpar special effects, is a visually great film. It never elicits more surprise or cinematic excellence than its opening scene, but War Blade is worth watching for an emotional action film.
War Blade will be released on digital platforms in the UK on January 15, 2024. In the US, the film is now available to watch on digital and on demand.