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Max Manus

By Peter Calder

Rating: * * *
Verdict: Kiss kiss boom boom.

Max Manus reinterprets a dark episode in Norway's history. Photo / Supplied by Rialto Distribution
Max Manus reinterprets a dark episode in Norway's history. Photo / Supplied by Rialto Distribution

Norway's tarnished reputation of co-operation with Nazi invaders gets a buff-up with this routine but impressive biopic of the country's most famous resistance fighter.

Norwegian gave English the word "quisling" (a traitor who collaborates with an invader by leading a puppet government) after Vidkun Quisling, the country's fascist party leader, who did just that in April 1940. Far less famous is Manus, the leading light of a group of enthusiastic, even ruthless, guerrillas who conducted an audacious and effective campaign of sabotage against the occupying Nazi forces.

The film is bookended by two episodes that pointedly illustrate the meaninglessness of enmity.

In the opening sequence, which unfolds bit by bit in flashback throughout the film, Manus is shown as a volunteer fighting against the Russian invaders of Finland.

Only a few months later, his country is invaded by German forces. The irony of a scene near the end, involving an improbable handshake, should not be spoilt here.

But there's nothing too subtle about what unfolds in between. This is Boy's Own stuff with lots of explosions - the effects, including a sparing use of CGI, are impressive - and a suitably problematic romance.

It's little surprise that it was seen by a quarter of Norway's population, since it so vigorously reinterprets a dark episode in the nation's history. But it lacks the moral subtlety of the recent Flame & Citron to which it is most profitably compared and it represents at best a slight if entertaining addition to the recent bumper crop of war movies.

Cast: Aksel Hennie, Ken Duken, Agnes Kittelsen

Directors: Joachim Roenning, Espen Sandberg

Running time: 112 mins

Rating: R13 (violence) In Norwegian, German, Russian, Finnish and English with English subtitles

- NZ Herald

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