109 of 118 people found the following review helpful
on 14 May 2009
I had been waiting for this film for a long while and managed to see it at one of the advanced screenings. It really is an incredible film. It's been a long while since a WW2 movie has moved me in the same way - I'm thinking The Pianist. I also read that the screenwriter died very recently at the age of just 28... which is incredible in itself given the depth and sheer scale of this film. A true epic in every sense of the word the film follows Max Manus, a Norwegian resistance figher first in the Winter War in Finland against the advancing Russian army and then in Norway itself where he wages war on the occupying Nazi forces with a group of resistance fighters called "The Oslo Gang". Shockingly brutal at times in terms of the violence this film does not shy away from the harsh realities of war and the incredible ordeal that occupied countries suffered at the hands of Nazi Germany. Packed with intense visceral action this is a film that will both keep you locked to the screen with excitement and have a profound emotional affect. In all honesty this is one of the most brilliant war movies I have seen for a long time. Breathtaking
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 21 June 2009
Norwegian citizen Max Manus(Askel Hennie)frustrated by and haunted by his stint as a volunteer in the Finnish army battling the Russians in 1940 joins and eventually leads the Oslo Gang - a dedicated group of Norwegians trained to sabotage German military movements inside the Norwegian interior with particular emphasis on the german battleships anchored in Oslo harbour.
Tremendously tense sabotage sequences,added to a very exciting first half hour with Manus' desperate escape from Nazi intelligence being especially well handled are allied to good performances,excellent period detail and a refeshingly non-sappy romantic sub-plot that rather than derailing the film's momentum adds a well judged dose of believability and humanity amidst the terror and confusion of German occupation.
At times the efforts of the saboteurs can be a little hard to follow and more could have been made of the daily fear of capture as the film progressed with the clever Siegfried of German intelligence seemingly close but not enough becoming a contrivance too far.
However that does not detract from this excellent piece,based on the real life exploits of Max Manus and his crew,that conveys very well the psychological horrors of war and the lengths that ordinary people went to in their fight for freedom.
49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on 5 August 2009
Strange is it not that even a film like this can result in a range of stars from 1 to 5?
I have opted to give it a 4 star as I felt that this was indeed a very good, well acted film. Awesome, perhaps not, but very watchable.
There really is no point in dwelling on whether the Norwegian's were in part or all against Nazi's; it is one of those historical arguments you can get embroiled in unnecessarily as to how much they 'resisted'.
The fact of the matter is that some did, and this film covers this in a very well paced way.
My only beef, hence 4 and not five, is more because being deaf I rely heavily on subtitles, and when the dialogue reverted to English, there was no subtitle, this I hope, will assist those of you who are hard of hearing.
65 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on 22 June 2009
For some unfathomable reason, when this thrilling and moving movie was released on DVD in the USA and the UK, the distributors decided to change the title from the simple and effective Max Manus, and add the terrible line Man of War, making it sound like some gung-ho action movie, and nothing could be further from the truth.
Based on true events (and once you have watched the film, the word "heroic" takes on new meaning), the film tells the story of Max Manus, a Norwegian resistance fighter during World War 2 and the leader of the so called "Oslo gang", a group of dedicated patriots who decided to strike back at the occupying Nazi forces any way the could. Beginning with Max's experiences as a volunteer in the Finnish war of 1940 against the invading Soviets, the film then moves on to detail his exploits following the occupation of his beloved Norway by the Nazi's. Initially idealistic and something of a loose cannon, a brutal brush with the Gestapo see's Max flee to England, where he receives training in the arts of the resistance fighter and is parachuted back into Norway to organise the resistance, older, wiser and totally dedicated to the cause. Alongside Max are a group of like minded young men, all prepared to die for their cause, and it is their secret war that forms the heart of the film. Living on their nerves, aware that capture means death, this group of men carry out a series of spectacular and damaging operations against the Nazi regime, but as the casualties grow, Max struggles to come to terms with the loss of his friends and the sacrifices necessary to ensure victory.
The star of the film is without a doubt Aksel Hennie as Max, who breathes life into this apparently quiet man who decides to stand up and be counted. Hennie's Max is brave to the point of foolhardiness, and prepared to do whatever he must to get his country back, but feels crushed by the responsibility of his actions and slowly unravels as his friends die around him. But Hennie is ably supported by the likes of Christian Rubeck and Nicolai Cleve Broch as his two most trusted friends within the gang, and Ken Duken as Siegfried Fehmer, the Nazi officer tasked with capturing Max and his associates, and a truly great piece of acting it is as Duken gives Fehmer a truly seductive yet menacing charm.
Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg who directed the movie, and Thomas Nordseth-Tiller who wrote the screenplay, deserve every credit for giving the viewer a great piece of cinema. Never averse to showing the consequences of the gang's actions, from retributive executions by the Nazi's to the violent and bloody deaths of some of Max's closest friends, this is a film that is both strong and subtle but never showy. With a closing sequence that is both heart braking and uplifting at the same time and speaks volumes about the nature of war, this is an epic in every sense of the word.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 27 January 2010
Max Manus is a movie which centers on developing a story, and the characters within it, rather than being fast paced or action packed. It is based on actual events and people who lived through them during WWII, and it is all the more emotionally involving for being a true story. Excellent acting and production standards certainly make this movie worth buying on Blu-ray - this high definition version adds to the impact. On the negative side, I do feel that perhaps the content/theme of this movie is slightly misrepresented in terms of the product cover: There are almost no action or battle sequences at all, and those that there are, are only Max's occasional very brief memory flashbacks. Finally, the English subtitles are occasionally blighted by typos and dodgy spelling; e.g. how did "diffucult" make it through to the final release version? Nonetheless, Max Manus is a good movie worth buying on Blu-ray.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I liked this Norwegian war film although I can not really say that it is a master piece. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.
Maximo Guillermo "Max" Manus really existed. Born in 1914 to a Norwegian-Danish couple living in Bergen, he owed his first and second name to the great love his father always felt to Spanish and Latino culture, as he lived many years in numerous Spanish speaking countries. Young Maximo Manus also followed in his father's steps and lived and worked in South American and in Cuba for some time, before returning to Norway in early 1939 and joining Norwegian Army as simple soldier. In winter 1939 together with some other Norwegians he volunteered to serve in Finnish Army and he fought, quite bravely, during Winter War in 1939-40 against invading Soviets.
A digression here for fire arms and other military detail maniacs. Before watching this film I couldn't really understand the picture on the cover of the DVD, as the weapon used puzzled me - well, it turns out this is the scene from Winter War and the hero uses here a Finnish Suomi KP/31 9 mm submachine gun with a 36-round box magazine. End of digression for fire arms and other military details maniacs.
After surviving the war against Soviets, "Max" Manus returned to Norway and re-joined the army, just in time to see the Germans invade his country... After fighting in the Norwegian campaign, once Germans won, he went underground and joined the resistance. And here the film really begins and I am not saying anything more...
If you want to fully enjoy this film I advise against checking on internet what happened to the hero and his companions, as well as their nemesis, SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer Siegfried Fehmer, a senior Gestapo executive in occupied Norway. The film tries to follow quite close the real history and therefore the suspense can be easily killed.
The film shows quite well the cost of the war and of resistance fight on people involved in it. With butcher bill on both sides accumulating and the fighting going on and on seemingly without end, exhaustion, burnout and finally depression settle in and even if one keeps soldiering on, the ghosts of fallen comrades start to slowly replace the company of living and one starts to self-medicate with solitude and strong liquor... And no amount of glory and honors can change it - at least not easily...
I liked this film, although a great masterpiece it is not. There are some weaker moments, like the repetitive rather useless reminiscences of Winter War - one would be a good thing, but there is too many of them. The general tone is, I believe, quite typical to the Scandinavian character - serious, even grave, to the point and rather low-key, avoiding excessive display of feelings and drama even when most extremely tragic events are described.
There is no cult of super-hero here. "Max" Manus is shown here as a very human being, who can occasionally be careless, reckless and even occasionally self-destructive - also, sometimes he is a real jerk... But it actually doesn't hurt his image much - he is simply a tough guy who lives in even tougher times.
Bottom line, this is a good, solid war film about armed resistance against a ruthless foreign occupation and especially about one particularly ferocious, charismatic and relentless freedom fighter. Enjoy!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 25 July 2013
Norway, a country of just 3 million people then, was crushed by a German occupation army of more than 200,000 troops. Resistance was not a viable option.
But resistance there was. This film doesn't deal with the full scope
of Norwegian resistance and the infamy of the collaborationist regime.
Due to budget and time constraints includes only the most important
highlights of the struggle of Norwegian resistance hero Max Manus,
and the tragic fate of most of his comrades.
There's scarcely any combat in the film: Only a skirmish with Soviet
troops in snow-bound Finland, which has become a recurring nightmare of
Max Manus. There are hair-raising escapes from Gestapo and the
collaborationist police. There are two very tense sabotage operations
with limpet mines, in the Oslo harbor. A lot of time is dedicated
in Max Manus' romance with "Tikken", the woman who was his Norwegian
liaison then, and became his wife after the war.
Since the story covers much ground, transition from one scene to the
next tends to be abrupt. But the film is beautifully shot, in real locations,
with a large number of extras, and attention to historical detail.
Aksel Hennie (Max Manus), and Agnes Kittelsen (Tikken) are truly exceptional
in their respective roles.
Included in the Blu-ray is a very informative 45' documentary on the life
of Max Manus. This comprises interviews with him, and some of the surviving
members of his unit, 50 years after the events depicted on the film.
It is very touching to watch these old men recount their exploits,
at the exact locations where these happened.
The documentary is subtitled in English. The film is not subtitled in
English SDH. In the few instances when English is spoken (training camp
in Scotland), handicapped people may lose plot points.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 12 January 2012
Discussing what might be worth catching of the latest in Norwegian cultural life with a Norwegian Army officer in Narvik a couple of years ago, he suggested that someone had finally put together a film account of the military campaign against the German occupation of Norway that could be considered both entertaining and historically credible. I decided to pay attention.
Max Manus is indeed a cracking yarn and, if you're part of the generation that found Kirk Douglas in Anthony Mann's depiction of the events at Telemark less than convincing, Max Manus should provide reparation. Manus's exploits during WWII rendered him a national hero, but his life, character and experiences were just as complex and ambiguous as Norway under German occupation. Such was the trauma of those years that Norway, in common with many occupied countries, has struggled to establish a national narrative that fully acknowledges both the noblest and basest aspects of human behaviour during that period. The success of Max Manus in Norway has clearly been part of that national process of healing. It understandably emphasises the heroic without, for the most part, glossing over the worst aspects of collaboration. Its closest counterparts in this respect would probably be Paul Verhoeven's fine films 'Soldier of Orange' and 'Black Book', and indeed Max Manus shares much in common with the production quality and focus of these films.
As has been frequently pointed out in the more negative reviews here, this is not an 'all action' film and it requires the viewer to 'endure' subtitles. Given these constraints, I suspect only those prepared to apply concentration, imagination, and possessed of the ability to empathise with implied jeopardy will fully appreciate the depiction of what were incredible acts of bravery and endurance. Many reviewers are also correct in observing that the film does not expend energy on the development of lengthy sub-plots to dive into Manus's love life or his own personal demons. In its depiction of Manus it subordinates all else to concentrate on a single theme; the need to fight, survive and grow stronger in the face of German occupation, and in this it clearly attempts to reflect the experience of the man himself.
In depicting the occupation of Norway, the distinctions between the development of a 'resistance' and the development of an organised external force under the British SOE are fully explored. They are shown in Manus's rapid journey from youthful firebrand to seasoned operative and in the difficulties these two differing forces frequently experienced in co-operation. The role of Norwegian collaboration in delivering effective governance to Germany is shown, as are the perils such collaboration posed to those opposing it. Violence, when it occurs, is usually rapid, confused, bloody and fatal. When it all comes to an end of course, it doesn't end. The portrayal of Manus as an anguished man in the immediate aftermath, a man whose raison d'etre is extinguished in an instant allowing his pain and grief to rush back in, is credible and well executed. Although the film contains occasional traces of apologia in the weight afforded to many issues surrounding the occupation, it was never intended as a confessional but a celebration of something worthy of celebration.
The time and effort invested in all aspects of production shine out and ensure the film is easily the equal of many far higher budget Hollywood independent productions, and the entire cast deliver convincing performances. In the final analysis, this is a film best suited to film enthusiast with a love of exploring new and unfamiliar stories through the well-crafted lens of a different language and culture; to those who couple such enthusiasm with an interest in tales of genuine military heroism; and to Norwegians, for whom it is so clearly intended to provide a sense of pride and unity.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This found itself onto my shelf of DVD's because of the tag line on the front. 'They stole his country. Now he wants it back!' It looked like it was set during the second world war which made me think it might not be entirely fiction. It did look like it would be a great action movie.
It turns out Max Manus is anything but fiction. Max was a Norwegian and a freedom fighter. Fighting for the Finnish against the Russians in 1940, he returned home when Germany invaded Norway. His mission to start a resistance movement. This film traces the period of time from the German occupation to the end of World War II. A time during which Max would become a legend in Norway for his daring and often successful missions against the Germans. The movie follows the lives of those around him and the incredible dangers they faced in fighting their cause.
If that does not sound much like an action movie then you are absolutely right. It did contain some contextual action but the main theme is of the human story. In the process it gives us a real sense of moment to moment suspense and the danger these people faced everyday, their constant loss. It also does a very good job of painting a human side to the German's without watering down their methods.
Production is to a high quality and extremely well acted. Interestingly for this English native the Norwegian actors all seemed very familiar. Although the language was Norwegian it was subtitled English. I hardly noticed after five minutes. If there is a criticism then it is in the makers desire to stay very true to the non-fiction source. They tried to include so many of the themes important in this compelling man's life, it sometimes did not flow cohesively. Sometimes jumping chunks of time between which many of the feats that went towards his legend have to be assumed by the viewer. I got the impression this might have originally been intended as a multi part TV series, or might have been chopped down to size for the movie format. Don't let that deter you. This is almost as compelling as the real man seems to have been.
Very highly recommended and a very good reminder of what it takes to fight wars, the nature of terrorism and of daily dangers we now cannot imagine.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 11 November 2009
Man of War? No, just a very ballsy young Norwegian prepared to risk all to fight the invader. The inexperience and lack of training that represents war time circumstance manifests itself in apparent amateurishness and unnecessary casualties; between scenes of confused action are prolonged periods of relative or absolute inactivity, frustration and boredom. This is the reality of war, caught and very well portrayed by a movie that deserves a better title. This is not, as implied, an action movie; it is an excellent portrayal of an exceptional individual, his close compatriots and their small and dangerous part in a very brutal war. I'm not sure about the wines-and-dines by night, fights Germans by day lifestyle suggested, but life went on even under wartime occupation so perhaps I'm being too sniffy?