Jodie Foster has always been a shrewd filmmaker. Whether she is tackling warm family comedies or high-stakes thrillers, the world through her camera lens is never two-dimensional or static. That’s what makes her the perfect candidate to bring the breathtaking Icelandic eco-thriller Woman at War to American audiences.
As reported by Deadline, Foster will direct a remake of Benedikt Erlingsson‘s latest directorial triumph, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2018. Woman at War, which is Iceland’s official entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2019 Oscars, combines the visual audacity of an ecologically conscious flick with personal conviction and pitch-black humor. Erlingsson specifically describes it as a feminist tale with “no misery, no violence, no death, not even a gun, and no sex.”
Indeed, Woman at War is all about its fearsome central character, Halla (played by Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir), and her various political and personal convictions. In her regular life, she is a genial choir conductor in her hometown. But Halla’s brasher political side then bursts forth as a no holds barred environmental activist. She is determined to save the Highlands of Iceland from the destructive aluminum industry by means of direct sabotage. And she’s doing it all herself.
Yet, Halla also has dreams of becoming a mother. Crucially, when her application to adopt a baby from Ukraine is approved in conjunction with a government crackdown on her covert protesting, Halla decides to stage one last coup against the corporations defiling Iceland’s natural beauty.
In Foster’s version, the fight will be taken to the American West. Foster herself will have her own take on Halla, who she describes as “a warrior for the planet, a strong woman who risks it all to do the right thing.” The film has the backing of the original venture’s producer Marianne Slot, as well. Not much else is known about the production otherwise in terms of scheduling, screenwriters, and additional actor hires, though.
Still, Foster’s involvement alone in bringing such a fascinating, larger-than-life female character to the big screen is unmissable. Of course, this wouldn’t be a first for her, seeing as she has been a greatly consistent artist over the many decades that she has worked in show business.
Although Foster’s most recent efforts have placed her behind the camera, for the most part, a Halla adjacent role will undoubtedly put her back in the spotlight for all the right reasons. I yearn for the days of Foster’s other onscreen greats, including Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs, Sarah Tobias in The Accused, and Meg Altman in Panic Room. Halla would measure up to any of them. A thankful notion when considering that Foster’s acting credits from the last few years comprise the lukewarm blockbusters Elysium and Hotel Artemis.
In contrast, undoubtedly a superheroine in her own way, Halla could potentially be one of the most unique characters Foster has ever gotten a chance to play. She exudes a brand of off-beat empathy that complements the ambitious backdrop of this unconventional comedy-drama. Beyond the impeccably pointed dry humor in Woman at War is a noticeable emotive poignancy. This is something that Geirharðsdóttir is able to translate with courage and passion in the original.
Halla is an inspired, well-rounded character who grounds the overwhelming, uncontrollable shenanigans around her. It’s a role that Foster was just meant to play.
Furthermore, Woman at War is a first-rate choice for Foster’s next directorial venture, too, given the kinds of stories she prefers to tell. Her filmmaking sensibilities are compassionate with a good amount of playfulness thrown into the mix. The bombastic intertwining themes of Woman at War have the chance to really test those virtues of hers, taking her out of more contained forays into family drama.
Foster’s first three movies — Little Man Tate, Home for the Holidays, and The Beaver — deal with parenthood to varying degrees of feel-goodness (and in the case of the latter, utter absurdity). That said, what’s truly special about Foster’s most conventional efforts is how real they come across.
At least, that’s the case for the human relationships at the core of any given set piece. Home for the Holidays is especially effective in unspooling the recognizable weak spots of a classic family get-together over Thanksgiving. The film is fulfilling because of that honest familiarity.
Foster’s work has become more incisive the more she directs, too. Her 2016 feature Money Monster, as well as her throes into TV (Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, and Black Mirror), are comparably urgent tales touching on politics in different areas of life. Whether she’s navigating stories about identity, the press, or technology, Foster’s directorial flair is earnest and vitally unflinching.
Black Mirror, in particular, takes her typical familial schtick and darkly unravels it to extreme but palpable results. The fact that Foster is aiming to follow up such a stark episode of television with the even more ambitious Woman at War is a logical, welcome step forward for her. This remake is the ultimate culmination of Foster’s concerns as an artist. She has the right skills to pull it off beautifully.