Sound of Metal, Whiplash… smashing drums as if your life depends on it and intense, visceral psychological drama seem to go hand-in-hand. Sound of Metal’s drum kit belonged to a heavy metal drummer in the early stages of hearing loss while Whiplash turned into a Full Metal Jacket encounter between a hard-hearted teacher and a malleable student. Ushering in yet another intense and challenging cinematic experience, director Shariff Korver opens Do Not Hesitate with a shirtless Joes Brauers playing drums.
Do Not Hesitate isn’t a music drama but signals by way of a possible tribute to the aforementioned films that things could get heated. Taking place in an arid country in the Middle East, a peace-keeping convoy of Dutch soldiers are stranded when their military vehicle breaks down. Forced to hunker down while they wait for rescue helicopters, their superior leads a group of soldiers to higher ground as three young soldiers guard the damaged yet valuable war machine. After a distraught yet brave local boy’s goat is killed, attempts at amends don’t go to plan.
This complicated desert encounter with a nameless boy becomes the fulcrum to Do Not Hesitate as a handful of Dutch soldiers feel the physiological and psychological pressures of their precarious situation. Unable to abandon their post and struggling to send a temperamental boy packing, the thriller seesaws between innocence and violence. As the young boy scorns and taunts the dutybound soldiers, becoming a thorn in their flesh, his loud and relentless behaviour becomes a safety concern. As their assigned leader, Erik tries to find common ground in a bid to appease and calm the young soul with acts of restrained kindness but the hellish conditions and severity of the standoff escalate to the point of no return.
Do Not Hesitate was Holland’s official submission for Best International Feature Film. Directed by Shariff Korver, this bold commentary leverages its character dynamics and state of flux to speak to overarching cultural and conflict issues. Not a typical war drama thriller, this strangely intimate film serves as a altercation between four people left to their own devices. Driven by authentic visuals, taut atmosphere, slow-burning tension, headstrong performances and smart writing, this dramatic encounter finds interpersonal resonance while tapping into timely geo-political issues on a macro level. Do Not Hesitate echoes the classic “war is hell” sentiment but chooses to focus on the tipping point between innocence and violence as well as the haunting aftermath.
“All fatigues come with standard issue underwear.”
This psychological drama thriller is compelled by solid performances from Joes Brauers, Spencer Bogaert, Tobias Kersloot and Omar Alwan. Bogaert and Kersloot serve as wingmen to Erik, capturing the essence of two rattled soldiers who wouldn’t be friends off-the-clock. Each bringing their own ideas to solve the “problem child” scenario, Erik becomes the voice of reason amid the chaos as he tries to establish a currency of negotiation and reasoning. Do Not Hesitate leans on this complex relationship between Erik and the boy as trust becomes a kickball. To this end, Joes Brauers and Omar Alwan’s “David & Goliath” altercation mutates along with their performances. Brauers conveys control and emotional intelligence while Alwan wields a demanding, explosive and spirited turn.
Generating tension from culture shock and a series of ethical dilemmas, Do Not Hesitate attempts to find a sliver of humanity in the chaos of conflict. Each coming to the impasse with their own needs, communication barriers exacerbate as the boy’s raw deal results in a slow-boiling tantrum and sit-down protest. Trying to barter with and physically remove the goat herd without harming him, the protectors of the military vehicle find themselves alone and compromised, waiting for overdue rescue helicopters or the enemy to descend.
Do Not Hesitate’s suspended reality is dry, visceral and impactful. Using CGI sparingly the setting has an earthiness, grit and weight, dealing with the raw outworking of a slain goat as an embittered dispute relating to damage of “property” turns ugly. While Korver keeps his story grounded, there’s a haunting and poetic undercurrent to the confusion, fear and bewilderment as its subjects shed their innocence. Serving as an allegory, the conclusion’s stream of scenes serve as an ellipsis to let the story stew and leave you just as haunted as Erik.
Tilting the balance between safety and danger, civility and savagery intermingle as the heat and psychological pressure take their toll. A challenging viewing experience, sometimes shocking even, Do Not Hesitate makes some thoughtful observations. Given power by one authority, seemingly having dominion over another nation, things tend to fall apart in a state of perceived lawlessness as a “Lord of the Flies” rises from the ashes.
The bottom line: Intense