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Review: Avid virtual warriors take flight in 'Man at War'

Jacek Blawut takes a fast-paced, if not always penetrating, look at the 'pilots' fighting Europe's WWII air battles via computer and an elaborate multiplayer game.

October 25, 2012|By Sheri Linden
  • A scene from the movie "Man at War."
A scene from the movie "Man at War." ( )

In an international network of unassuming man caves, Europe's World War II air battles are still being waged, thanks to computer flight simulators and an elaborate multiplayer game.

The documentary "Man at War" takes an up-close, if not always penetrating, look at this subculture of avid virtual warriors, with wry glances at the women who watch from the sidelines, variously amused, exasperated and unimpressed.

Polish filmmaker Jacek Blawut — whose cinematography credits include an episode of "The Decalogue" — orchestrates his material with energy and precision, especially as he tracks the action during a decisive battle (Hanover, among other cities, is at stake).

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The men in the film's composite portrait include proud American sons of Air Force pilots, somewhat more ambivalent German grandsons of Luftwaffe fliers and the "radical patriot" Pole whose grandmother just wants him to find a nice girl.

Some prepare for aerial combat by donning vintage uniforms, some by ordering pizza. As with all online communities, a certain tunnel vision takes hold, but these self-described history freaks see something at stake beyond nostalgia or a passion for yesteryear's incredible flying machines.

One parses the difference between anti-Soviet and pro-Nazi; others reaffirm German-Polish antipathies. Some adopt gung-ho jargon, and yet others question the official story.

The film might have benefited from a more in-depth look at the game itself. But Blawut's fast-moving doc is a sharp rendering of a kind of tech-enabled time travel, and the way this online fraternity is rewriting history while very much in its grip.


"Man at War." No MPAA rating; in English, German, Polish and Russian with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 13 minutes. At Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena.

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