Two soldiers one from each side--Ciki (Branko Djuric) a Bosnian and Nino (Rene Bitorajac) a Serbian--find themselves stranded in a trench between each other's front lines--a "no man's land" if you will. The two men are sworn enemies but each somehow understands and respects the other's need to survive--for a while anyway. The tension escalates when Ciki's friend Cera (Filip Sovagovic) whom they thought was dead turns out to be alive-and lying on top of a triggered mine in the trench. If Cera moves it will kill all three men. Meanwhile neither side--Bosnian nor Serbian--want to take responsibility for the men but instead call in the peacekeeping UNPROFOR for assistance. The UN doesn't want get involved either but a brave French sergeant Marchand (Georges Siatidis) takes the initiative anyway and tries to rescue them bringing a mine squad and the international press along with him. Suddenly the situation becomes a political tug of war. While the UN tries to save face the press tries to get the story and the soldiers in the trench try to end their differences and save their lives the insanity of the war proves to be too heavy a burden for them all.
The two main actors-Djuric who is from Sarajevo Bosnia and Bitorajac who is from Zagreb Croatia-give top-notch performances portraying men in a situation that could very well be close to their own hearts. The chemistry between the actors is real and Djuric and Bitorajac are able to bring a sense of irony to their characters. They understand innately that the conflict between Ciki and Nino isn't really about any differences between them as people; in fact the soldiers are more similar than they think. It's simply the long-seeded hatred between their homelands that seethes within them. Also quite good as the French Sergeant Marchand is Siatidis whose face perfectly expresses the frustrations of the war. Marchand is a humanitarian who only wants to save lives but because of bureaucracy isn't able to do his job. British actor Simon Callow (Four Weddings and a Funeral) does a nice job as the UN's big cheese Colonel Soft trying to soft-pedal (pun intended) the situation for political gain.
The atrocities--and absurdities--of the Bosnian war are tough subjects but in the hands of Bosnian filmmaker Danis Tanovic No Man's Land deals with them in a satirical and poignant manner. He set his film on one beautiful summer day when life should be languid and peaceful but instead the game of war is being played out with brutal force. All three men in the trench want to survive but the anger and tension remain constant. One scene in particular succinctly explains the theme of the movie. Ciki and Nino began blaming each other's country for starting the war. Furious Ciki holds a gun to Nino's head and Nino admits his country started it. A short time later it's Nino's turn to grab a gun and point it at Ciki who then admits his country started it. They both know what they are admitting to and why but the conflict still doesn't dissipate. This isn't a fast-paced film; it actually moves tortuously slow at times and the ending certainly doesn't leave one feeling warm and toasty inside. But all in all the movie comes from the hearts of the people who have lived through it.