THERE ARE TWO CONDITIONS you must accept before we proceed. First, you must be willing to submerge yourself in the hard facts of the Bosnian War: the merciless ethnic cleansing of Muslims at the hands of Serb forces, systematic rape, and genocide. Second, you must forget everything you've read or seen in the tabloid magazines about Angelina Jolie.
Done? Okay, In the Land of Blood and Honey follows Ajla (Zana Marjanovic) and Danijel (Goran Kostic), who we meet in a Bosnian nightclub, circa 1992, as they share a first dance—which is interrupted by a bomb blast. Fast forward a few months and we're at the onset of war. Bosnian Serb forces are securing Muslim territory, rounding up men and women or just shooting them for kicks. Ajla is herded to a camp where Danijel has been promoted via nepotism to captain in the Army of Republika Srpska.
More than two decades after then-Secretary of State James Baker famously said of the war, "We don't have a dog in this fight," Jolie, who both wrote and directed, clearly does. But to her credit, she largely avoids cliché throughout the film—it's even scripted in native tongue, with English subtitles!—which, combined with the subject matter, makes for rather refreshing Hollywood product.
Nevertheless, critics are getting all huffy that this is an activist film and therefore not art (an absurd notion to begin with) but fuck it—if a vanity project/Trojan Horse of reality driven by the name of a Hollywood star is what it takes to smack sense into some heads around here, let's open the gate.
DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS: The original version of this story incorrectly identified the Muslims in The Land of Blood and Honey as "Croat Muslims" and the territory in question as "Croat territory."