The wry, environmentally friendly Icelandic eco-activist fairy tale "Woman at War" features the actress Halldora Geirharðsdottir in a dual role. It's been a good stretch lately for actresses in dual roles: Lupita Nyong'o is the dazzling double act at the heart of Jordan Peele's "Us."
This movie's a little less sinister, though climate change deniers might disagree. "Woman at War" follows the fortunes of Halla, a choir director living on her own in Reykjavik, as well as Halla's identical twin sister Asa, a yoga instructor who, like Halla, is trying to adopt a child through local agencies.
Asa enters the story soon enough, but we're with Halla from the start, as she readies her latest, brazen act of industrial sabotage. A new aluminum smelting plant threatens to despoil the landscape and the fresh Icelandic air. Equipped with bow and arrow, among other tools, Halla brings down pylons, causes power outages, grabs headlines and forces her corporate adversaries to deploy helicopters, drones and, eventually, the CIA to fight back. With the help of a company mole, Halla continues her campaign, signing her manifesto "The Mountain Woman." Then comes the news that, at 49, she'll be a mother soon if she chooses to adopt a war orphan from Ukraine.
The director and cowriter Benedikt Erlingsson (working with screenwriter Olafur Egill Egilsson) tells an efficient story full of incident as well as a casual impishness. In the vein of "There's Something About Mary," a trio of musicians appear frequently on-screen, accompanying Halla in her exploits and moments of decision, a sousaphone lending "Woman at War" a droll oompah vibe. The movie has its coy and slightly pushy side, but its juggling of comic and dramatic impulses gives it a sense of purpose.
As does its crucial leading performer. As Halla/Asa, Geirharðsdottir never forces a thing. The actress is the honest engine of this sincere, slightly off-kilter fable, whether she's hiding inside a sheep's carcass to evade capture or puzzling through the question of adopting a child. "It's all so complicated," Asa says at one point. The movie asks the question: Can a woman of fierce principle bring a child into a country Asa believes has betrayed its own people?