out of Five
Running time: 118
Impressively directed, frequently exciting and powerfully emotional war thriller with a strong script and great performances.
What's it all about?
Co-directed by Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg, Max Manus: Man of War is based on the true story of Norwegian resistance fighter Max Manus. In the spring of 1940, after fighting as a volunteer in the Finnish-Russian Winter War, Max (Aksel Hennie) returns home to a Norway occupied by Germans and swiftly joins the resistance movement.
However, Max's reckless nature soon brings him to the attention of the occupying forces and, after a daring escape in which he jumps through a second floor window (which leads to a great running gag), he ends up in Scotland, where he undergoes extensive training before returning to Norway in 1943. Together with his friends Gregers Gram (Nicolai Cleve Broch), Gunnar Sonsteby (Knut Joner) and Kolbein Lauring (Christian Rubeck), Max carries out a number of spectacular sabotage attacks against the German forces, but Gestapo investigator Siegfried Fehmer (Ken Duken) is on his trail and determined to bring him down.
A huge hit in its native Norway, Max Manus: Man of War is a hugely enjoyable war thriller that would make a good double bill with last year's Danish resistance thriller Flame and Citroen. Aksel Hennie is superb as Max and there's strong support from both Ken Duken (who resists the usual Nazi caricature) and Agnes Kittelsen as Tikken Linderbraekke, a married woman with whom Max falls in love.
Roenning and Sandberg orchestrate several exciting and suspenseful action sequences, even if the budget didn't quite stretch to impressive explosions - the way the film gets round this is inventive, but yields mixed results. In addition, the sharply written script is careful to illustrate the all too real emotional toll exerted by Max's actions; he's a fearless, almost James Bond-like fighter, but each time he loses a friend, it costs him deeply.
In short, Max Manus: Man of War is an impressively directed, sharply written and well acted war thriller that's exciting, suspenseful and emotionally engaging. Highly recommended.
Max Manus: Man of War (R13)