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09/04/2011

The Russians are coming!

Routine in some aspects, the gritty war-drama "5 Days of War" stands out as an example of the positive power of real-simulated action over computer-generated effects.

If you're anything like me, you'll want to keep your head down as bullets fly in this dramatic recreation of the brief, but bloody David vs. Goliath five-day conflict between Russia and the Georgian Republic in 2008.

Director Renny Harlin, once known for mainstream thrillers like "Die Hard 2:  Die Harder" and "Cliffhanger," hits the cinematic war zone with the full cooperation of the Georgia military and citizens.

That means when you see hundreds, perhaps thousands of attack-ravaged refugees fleeing their homes ahead of the Russian tanks, you are really seeing live humans instead of five or six folks multiplied by computer into the masses.

British actor Rupert Friend ("The Young Victoria") is out front as Thomas Anders, an American TV correspondent.  Along with fellow journalists Sebastian Ganz (British actor Richard Coyle of "Coupling"), The Dutchman (Val Kilmer) and Zoe (German actress Antje Traue), they treat war as nightly drinking binges with dangerous duty during daylight hours.

"5 Days of War" maintains its "Black Hawk Down" desperate feel throughout, as Anders repeatedly steps into active combat zones to get the story and, in this case, the girl; a schoolteacher named Tatia (Emmanuelle Chriqui of "You Don't Mess with the Zohan" and "Entourage" on HBO) cut off from her family during a bombing raid.

Harlin, while quite adept at using powerful images and sound, is not quite equal to Ridley Scott ("Black Hawk Down" director) when it comes to keeping it real and believable.

As powerful as the war scenes are, drama becomes melodrama at times.

Still, for those who enjoy war dramas that push them to the edge of their seats with heavy artillery and tank fire, "5 Days of War" keeps the action blasting throughout.

An added plus is Andy Garcia as Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili and Harlin's determination to make a modern-day war picture the old-fashioned way with real actors and effects.

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