In the Land of Blood and Honey Directed by: Angelina Jolie Cast: Zana Marjanovic, Goran Kostic, Rade Serbedzija Running Time: 2 hrs 7 mins Rating: R Release Date: January 6, 2012 (Chicago)
PLOT: A Serbian soldier (Kostic) fighting in the Bosnia War takes captive a Bosnian woman (Marjanovic) he knew from his peaceful past.
WHO'S IT FOR? If you're looking for a romance story that will leave you colder than freezing January weather, here's a foreign film just for you. Although it is directed by Angelina Jolie, the star-power ends there. Expect much more blood than honey.
As far as an actor-turned-director debut goes, Jolie certainly has not taken the easy route. Featuring no actor at least immediately recognizable to American filmgoers, In the Land of Blood and Honey goes deep into the chaos of the Bosnian War, and strictly uses Bosnian and Serbian dialogue (at least, in the print I saw). The film spans over two hours and features a heavy amount of war violence, including snipings, rapings, and a very high amount of dead civilians. While we know Jolie certainly has a very strong internationalist side, (something we could even get from reading People Magazine) I'm not sure we could have immediately expected something as direct as this.
With these challenging subjects, Jolie does a fine job of presenting them with a hard sense of realism (that is, one that's difficult to watch). She doesn't hold back in conveying the atrocities of a war that she is so outraged about, even if it dampers the ability to even enjoy her movie as a brooding piece of war cinema. The quiet yet screaming Blood and Honey is simply really, really dark, inside and out.
With all of these factors, perhaps the most challenging subject of Jolie's debut will be whether she can get people to actually see it.
The film features two notable performances from Kostic, who plays the Serbian soldier, and the woman he literally holds captive, Marjanovic (who look like Daniel Craig and Nia Vardalos, respectively). They overcome unfamiliar face territory to enrich a unique story of passion that can't easily be forgotten, especially since it seems to compare loving someone to being their prisoner (going to scoop on that, tabloid rags?)
Though her immediate presence is extremely removed from the on-screen images, (and arguably, there is no one here who tries to stand as Jolie), the real "star" of Blood and Honey is the promising first-time writer/director. After seeing this film, we can't believe an actor would have the chutzpah to make such an ambitious debut as this, and yet at the same time, noting this movie's barreling passion, we are not surprised.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10