WWII Film Review – Max Manus, Man of War (2008)

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Here’s a rousing adventure tale of WWII Norwegian war-hero Max Manus. Max Manus, Man of War follows a veteran of the Finnish wars with the Russians who returns to his occupied Norway to begin a resistance group.Directed by  Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, this film is a historically based thriller that doesn’t disappoint those looking for action, and has sufficient depth to satisfy history buffs.

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After making waves, Manus and his youthful group gain support and training from the British, and Manus is off to Scotland for prep. When asked if he was crazy or stupid, he answered his British military advisor, “My country was stolen from me, sir. And I intend to take it back.” You know its going to be a gritty and rollicking adventure with such an answer.

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Manus heads up the 1st Norwegian Independent Company, essentially a collection of his youthful friends, and wages a personal war upon the Nazis behind the lines. Based on a true character, the film gives a very good view of the risks and tensions of life as a resistance fighter.

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The characters are a fairly shallow bunch of what seem to be Nordic good ol’ boys and college men. You feel for them, shallow as they may be. In the course of the film, Manus loses several close friends, and you witness the anger and the resentment in his face. Near the end of the film, Manus is clearly struggling to keep hold of decency and humanity, and its not quite evident that he’ll manage to pull through until the end.

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There is a budding affection between Manus and Ida Nikoline Lie Lindebrække (she goes by “Tikken” in the film). Tikken is amarried resistance leader and mother of a young son. The film walks up to the line of infideltiy, but Tikken’s marriage and her guilty conscience keep her from grossly crossing over, at least at first. The film handles sexual tension well when Tikken, does not give into the alcohol and circumstances that in most other films would prove to be a cheap sex scene. Sadly, the last moments of the film depict Tikken’s true character as a scoundrel, as she falls from faithfulness, blemishing her character. History records that she divorced her husband and abandoned her child. In my opinion, this is inexcusable and is a blemish on Manus’ otherwise laudable character. You may find no problems with divorce, but I hate divorce.

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The film is action packed and filled with suspenseful situations. In one scene, a sympathetic nurse aides the captured and injured hero and is sniffed out by Gestapo chief Siegfried Fehmer, who Manus becomes very acquainted with over the course of his career. The nurse does her best, takes great risk, and the clear indication is revealed that she will certainly be punished. You’ve got to feel for her. War touches everyone.

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Manus and friends make daring sabotage raids on German ships in port, barely escaping patrol boats and getting urinated on by guards. They manage to blow up and burn a names registry that would have sent thousands of their countrymen to the front, and they manage to cause great harm to the German effort in Norway in general. This provides much suspense, action and opportunity to cheer for the good guys.

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It is unusual to see a well-made, energetic film about WWII from the Norwegian perspective, but this one is a winner. It could be considered family friendly in my household, no cheap nudity (though sexual situations you may have to censor for younger viewers), and foul language is limited (and subtitled). This is a well made adventure and a story of devotion to a cause. Its worth viewing.

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At the time of this writing, you can view the whole film on IMDB. Here are some further screen shots:

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