Thirty-year-old soldier Max is on his way to another tour of duty when he notices two local children playing a game of war with toy guns.
He gets caught up in their game, playing alongside the kids as they venture into the woods surrounding their neighborhood. But as Max loses his grip on his reality, the game of pretend suddenly feels altogether too real — and the two young boys lose their innocence.
Director Christian van Duuren has crafted a powerful exploration of the effects that warfare has on the psyche, combining excellent camerawork and finely calibrated performances to delve deep into one man’s brief descent into darkness.
The film begins on a light enough note, as a grown man joins a game played by two young boys. It seems innocent, though small moments of dissonance offer some sense of underlying unease. But as the film progresses, it transitions into something altogether taut, dark and tense, and the tonal shift is absolutely seamless.
The hand-held camera seems edgier and more nervous, and the superlative sound design captures the memories haunting Max effectively, evoking the harshness of the battlefield in the middle of a quiet, tranquil wooded area.
The performances are subtle and excellent all around, and both adult and children find perfectly specific moments to communicate their fear — and the realization that this game is not just child’s play anymore, but something much darker and complicated.
“Gamechanger” is a haunting and tense portrayal of the very human cost of warfare, whose images and emotional moments will linger with viewers well after viewing — much like the invisible scars than many in the military struggle with, long after their battlefield days are over.