Max Manus – Man of War
Max Manus: Man of War is an above-average biopic of a Norwegian resistance leader whose wartime exploits are little known outside of Scandinavia. Outraged at his country’s surrender and the installation of the traitorous Quisling government in 1940, Manus and friends decide to resist. While their initial efforts are amateur and non-violent (e.g., printing an underground newspaper) Manus and co are quickly drawn into outright sabotage. His dramatic capture and subsequent escape increases his profile amongst both allies and enemies, and he is sent to Scotland for commando training.
The film is beautifully shot, blessed with the kind of production values not normally seen outside of Hollywood’s assembly line of summer blockbusters. A huge budget allowed for sprawling set pieces, with over 1800 extras contributing to a convincing representation of WWII Norway.
Aksel Hennie, whose bug-eyed earnestness makes him a dead-ringer for a Nordic Steve Buscemi, does a creditable job in the eponymous role. He ably charts Manus’s emotional journey from a gallant young patriot during the early resistance to a tortured veteran at the war’s end, a man who must continue to resist the Nazis knowing that every act of resistance will be met with brutal reprisals against his comrades and countrymen. He also shows victory as bittersweet for the soldier that must come to terms with a peace in which his skills are no longer needed and so many of his friends are dead.
The film is let down in places by haphazard character development with most of Manus’s friends and enemies remaining largely one dimensional. The local Gestapo chief is particularly poorly-presented, with large segments of celluloid dedicated to his wholly irrelevant love-life and his unrequited enmity with Manus, the latter of whom seems completely unaware of the existence of the Gestapo man until the film’s final moments. Similarly, Max’s meteoric rise from a minor underground propagandist to the leader of the resistance and national hero is never fully fleshed out. However, in spite of some annoyances, the film remains a compelling and well-executed account of a fascinating and seldom-discussed theatre of WWII.
Reviewed by Murray Bruges
Type: Dramatised biopic of a war hero
Length: 118 minutes
Directors: Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg
Manus played by: Aksel Hennie