Woman at War

Woman at War ★★★★

An artful fable that examines what it really means to save the world, Benedikt Erlingsson’s “Woman at War” is the rarest of things: A crowd-pleaser about climate change. Combining Paul Schrader’s dire urgency with Roy Andersson’s droll brand of despair — to cite two other filmmakers whose work has wrestled with the maddening, quixotic idea of a single person trying to redeem an entire planet — Erlingsson has created a winsome knickknack of a movie that manages to reframe the 21st century’s signature crisis in a way that makes room for real heroism.

Halla (Halldora Geirharosdottir) is a 50-year-old choir director with a song in her heart, a smile on her face, and a second life as Reykjavik’s peskiest eco-terrorist. The film’s playful and surprising prologue introduces us to Halla as she uses her bow-and-arrow to topple some of the power lines that stretch across the yellow-green fields of the Icelandic highlands. This, we learn, is the fifth time she’s tried to exact some vigilante justice against the massive Rio Tinto aluminum plant that’s poisoning her homeland, and perhaps that explains why Halla is able to elude the authorities like she’s Ethan Hunt (in its own, small-scale way, one shot of Geirharosdottir hiding from a low-flying helicopter is as heart-in-your-throat, how-the-hell-did-they-do-that exciting as anything in “Mission: Impossible — Fallout”).

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