What makes a soldier desperately want to atone for killing someone in a time of war?
In Jirga, soldier Mike Wheeler (Sam Smith) returns to Afghanistan, to a village where he accidentally gunned down the father of a family. Haunted by his actions, Mike is determined to find the widow and family of his victim, and put himself at the mercy of the village elders—the Jirga.
For former TV soapie star Sam Smith, it’s a long way from the beaches of Home and Away to the dry and stony countryside of Afghanistan, but he embraces the role of the reserved and stoic Mike with intensity and sincerity.
After the exciting colour and movement of Kabul, Mike journeys to the isolated village to find the family and the Jirga. As the countryside becomes more isolated, Mike is captured by the Taliban. Initially shackled, as the Taliban learn of his quest, he is released and they help him find the village to make amends.
Mike is a tortured soul, haunted by having killed a man in a botched anti-Taliban raid. Once he reaches the village, there is fierce debate within the Jirga, some wanting Mike’s death while others plead for forgiveness
Director Benjamin Gilmour says Jirga highlights the importance of reconciliation and peace.
The pace is very slow for much of the film, but this builds the audience’s desire to see if Mike is on a suicide mission or will find forgiveness.
There is little English dialogue in the film but plenty of subtitles, and the intensity of Smith’s performance has us travelling on this journey with him without the need for excessive words.
After an initial physical attack on Mike by the family, his fate is eventually left for the eldest son of the slain villager to decide.
It’s a decision that will stay with you long after the movie is over.
+ Sam Smith’s compelling performance
– Some violent scenes