2019 Edinburgh Film Festival Review – How To Fake A War (2019)


This is a brilliant concept executed incredibly poorly. Theoretically How to Fake a War should have been hilarious, but it manages to stumble at every hurdle. The film never really manages to establish the tone that it wants to, making the humour seem off and the genuine moments of character fake. When arrogant hip-hop artist Harry Hope (Jay Pharoah) orders his PR team to make him even more renowned. They plan a concert for peace to quell a conflict in Georgia. However, the war soon ends before the peace concert and the PR team venture out to Georgia to fake the war with devastating consequences. The film really struggles under the weight of a poor script. Moreover, there are hints of racism throughout which are never really resolved. Indeed, the British characters all seem vindicated in their dismissive attitude towards their Georgian counterparts whom merely fill a void that could have been filled by any generic Eastern European/former Soviet people.

PR guru Kate (Katherine Parkinson) represents HaHarry Hope, the world’s most arrogant rapper. When a war breaks out between Georgia and the fictitious state of Ukbar, Kate recognises an opportunity to bring Harry to the widest audience. She proposes a peace gig, something “bigger than Live Aid”. However, as the concert is announced, a ceasefire is announced between the two nations, scuppering their cynical plan. In order to force the concert to go ahead, Kate takes her team: precious Matt (Daryl McCormack) and stressed Simon (Ali Cook) to Georgia to create some fake news. Her sister Peggy (Lily Newmark), Harry Hope’s number one fan tags along for the ride to see what her ruthless sister actually does. As each of their war vignettes hits the press, tensions escalate until the PR team have created a real war, far beyond their control.

How to Fake a War is a frustrating film in many ways, mostly down to the failure to capitalise on a hilarious and pertinent premise. From the start, the film never really finds its feet, introducing its characters and world poorly. The jokes never really land as intended, mostly relying on the contrast between the rough and ready Georgians and the pristine PR team. At best these generate a chuckle at the expense of the Brits, at worst it’s downright racist. The film tries to balance its lacklustre humour with an even worse attempt at genuine emotion and characterisation. It was hard to believe in the forced relationships between characters. Moreover, a huge revelation is blurted out near the start of the film, giving it no impact as it’s constantly dredged up in any moment that requires emotion.

The acting is solid, though it’s certainly tough for those involved when the script does them no favours. The most interesting aspect of the film, by far, is the Georgian setting and I wanted far more from the Georgian characters. They offered something different to the endless peppiness of the protagonists. Extra credit also goes to the stunning Georgian landscape which is captured beautifully by cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger. However, I find it difficult to find much else to commend about this film.

How to Fake a War goes about as well as instigating a war in an Eastern European country for the sake of promoting a rapper would. Does it sound hilarious? Yes. Is it in reality? No. The sub-90-minute running time is a slog with rare moments of laughter amongst a sea of mediocre humour and forced drama.

Ewan Wood |[rating=2]

Comedy | Ireland, Georgia | 15 | 2019 Edinburgh Film Festival | 22nd /23rd June | Dir.Rudolph Herzog |Katherine Parkinson, Lily Newmark, Jay Pharoah, Ali Cook