Two downed U.S. soldiers in rural Afghanistan happen upon an opium-producing family living under a Soviet tank in “Opium War,” Siddiq Barmak’s baffling second feature. As in “Osama,” the Afghan writer-helmer again uses a non-pro cast, but the result is stifled by poorly written English dialogue and a failure to reconcile apparent realism with occasional detours into absurdist tragicomedy. “War” inexplicably won best film (from a jury composed entirely of critics) at the Rome fest, and represents Afghanistan in the foreign-language Oscar race.
A white officer, Don Johnson (Peter Bussian), and his black subordinate, Joe (Joe Suba), crawl out of their helicopter into a poppy field in northern Afghanistan. In one of pic’s many cliches, Johnson is a smart brute, while Joe, from Harlem, isn’t knowledgeable about anything except opium. However, their continuous bickering pales in comparison to the goings-on in the clan of the local one-legged patriarch (Hamid Hozouri), who owns the field. “Osama” protag Marina Golbahari (who also did continuity duty) co-stars as a mad member of the barmy family. Some striking visual compositions and a locally flavored score are the only standout tech contributions.