Director: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg
Writers: Thomas Nordseth-Tiller
Starring: Aksel Hennie, Eirik Evjen, Mats Eldøen, Ken Duken
“Nothing is as pathetic as a soldier who nobody needs anymore.”
Max Manus was a man of war, which basically means he was a man who wasn’t just in a war, he was a war. Whatever that actually means, the highly decorated Norwegian fought during World War Part 2 as a prominent figure and leader in the resistance which was organised in his homeland against the fiendish Nazi invaders and that infamous bastard turn cloak Quisling.
Disgusted by his countries rapid fall to the German’s he makes contacts with some of his countrymen looking to make life difficult for old Fritz and his sausage factories. Together this band of amateurs fight back against the greatest war machine on Earth with whatever means they have: mostly being tweed sweaters and oversized pipes. After learning a few harsh lessons these plucky fellows soon begin sticking it to Harry-hun in a series of daring raids.
Its difficult to recall a war film being shot with such a mind to artistic photography. Extravagant lighting and all manner of fancy lenses are used throughout, and the directors craft some incredibly intense moments of action.
In his role as Max, Aksel Hennie puts in sterling performance capturing the suave charisma and salt of the earth sex appeal all these old boy warriors seemed to have in abundance. Its not all patriotic stiff upper lipped-ness though. This is a mans man who is not afraid to show a touch of sensitivity and vulnerability as he deals with the trauma of battle and the costs of being a leader in a hopeless struggle.
Standing against Max is one of the slimiest cartoon character SS officers ever seen. Ken Duken does his best to give this villain some gravitas but his constant smirking and enjoyment of his power is taken just a little too over the top. We get it – in WW2 films the Nazi’s are generally the bad guys.
As can be expected of most war hero biopics, the murkier areas of an insurgent campaign remain conveniently obscured within the fog of war. Just a small amount of research will reveal that the usual doubts exist among historians as to the precise details of the resistance movement and the man himself. Max is shown to have a few more complex and abrasive characteristics but these contribute more to the ideal of a troubled rogue. Then again maybe the guy was just a thoroughly decent chap.
Despite its adherence to the age old WW2 formula and its unabashed state sanctioned hero worship, MMM o’ War is a beautifully shot and gripping war epic.