Kayaki Dam, 2006. A group of young British soldiers encounter an unexpected danger that comes from a terrifying enemy – a minefield left-over from the Soviet invasion in 1980s. After being seriously injured, one soldier after another start stepping on the mine, that causes a severe injury. Left alone and horrified, soldiers will have to do their best to stay alive until help arrives. But the question is, how many more of part of their bodies they are going to lose before they start questioning themselves: what is worse, to lose life or a leg?
Based on true events, the bravery act of soldiers is impressively captured in “KILO TWO BRAVO” directed by Paul Katis. In his film, you will see that war never brings any good to anyone, and any loss is always waste.
Last year, I had the pleasure to have a phone interview with the filmmaker, who gladly spoke about his film, war, and making the viewer have a taste of what it was like to be on the front line.
MOVIEMOVESME: It’s impossible to watch “KILO TWO BRAVO” without anger. Right from the beginning you feel like you’re part of the story and witnessing all the nightmare the soldiers must go through. How was it moving from the scripting stage to filming?
Paul Katis: When we started off the scripting stage, we, you know, developed it from a couple of documents we had that were the facts but then we had a chat with all of the guys who had served and literally the guys told us their story from their point of view which gives us a richness and authenticity we probably could never have thought of ourselves. Having done that, once we cast the film a lot of the cast actually met their counterparts. I think that gave them the desire to do the thing as well as possible and that sort of intensity followed all the way through the filming process and all departments were committed to getting it as real as possible.
MOVIEMOVESME: It’s never easy to watch films about war. Especially, when you know the events told in the film are based on a true story. Can you talk about the development of the story, working with Paul “Tug” Hartley, perhaps, as an advisor?
Paul Katis: We spoke to everyone and they all came with their own angle in terms of the sort of style of the film. I knew I kind of wanted it to have a sort of documentary feel. The idea was to try and transport them to make them feel as though they were there and they were experiencing it themselves. Keeping the performances very authentic and very naturalistic and making sure everything was as it used to be and then filming it in that sort of slightly detached manner that documentaries used that all added to the effect.
MOVIEMOVESME: Making a film about soldiers who lose half of their bodies, legs, hands, and even lives is quite a stressful task. How was it for you to go through those terrifying scenes making them to look as real as possible?
Paul Katis: Well, we were driven by authenticity. We did our research. We had documents. We spoke to a surgeon who treated mine victims and had pictures which he showed us and we showed these to a chap called Cliff Wallace who designed the prosthetics. So we just tried to keep it as realistic as possible and that went through the entire process including the guys performances. It’s driven by realism which means getting on screen something as close to what it was actually like. So for instance the amount of time it takes to put on a tourniquet. It doesn’t suddenly appear on his leg. It takes time to take it out of the packet and get it over the stump and this will stay with these young soldiers as they are forced to do that.
MOVIEMOVESME: The entire cast I must say did a great job by breathing a life into every character they performed. I could have mention every single one, but there was something uncommonly beautiful about the performance of Mark Stanley who portrayed Tug. I always felt that he was so into it. Can you talk about this character a bit more?
Paul Katis: Well, like all the actors, they were helped by the fact they could read all the research Tomm Willimas and myself had done. When we interviewed all the real guys we had recorded of all them and ended up with a transcript of all the interviews. And all the actors were able to read those and help build a little bit of detail into the character portrayal. We weren’t wanting them to mimic the real people but to interpret their characters. I think the other thing that helped with all the performances was that the actors could draw on the same locale and had the same life experience as the people. So they didn’t have to worry about accents because they already had their accents and didn’t have to worry too much about back story because they’d had a similar experience to the real guys they’re playing. I think that helped considerably and apart from that it was genuinely an ensemble. All the lads worked together extremely hard to achieve the best performance they could and I think to a certain extent they raised on another’s game. Individuals performing well; other individuals feeling they should perform even better. As a matter of fact all the performances were brilliant, really.
MOVIEMOVESME: War is absolutely an unpleasant subject to make a film about. So, what is that you wanted the viewer to get from it most?
Paul Katis: It was all about making the viewer have a taste of what it was like to be on the front line. And I think by doing that the Traps of warfare. Either that they’re strongly anti-warfare – solely portrays only the victims and has a sort of political angle to it or you glory in warfare and violence. Those two extremes of filmmaking neither of which interest me particularly. I was trying to find a middle ground that portrayed real people. The guys next door doing the job they signed up to do or professional soldiers and just hang around with them and see what happened and subsequently you do that first but that there’s a fair bit of boredom. You can see in the solders lives they’re not doing very much. It’s just that 20% is life threatening. So that’s what I’m trying to get across in the film and I think to a certain extent that’s different from any other war film out there. It’ll give you a taste of what it’s like to be on the front line and as close as you can get without actually being there to experience it.