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Two Finnish war films.
on 16 July 2012
Both of these films have been extensively reviewed by others as individual releases; their availability as a 2-disc pack make this quite a bargain and they make a natural pairing.
"The Winter War" ("Talvisota") made in 1989 and directed by Pekka Parikka, is here presented in its US release; running at 122 mins.(the Finnish original clocks in at 192 mins.) it has a brief introduction in American-English explaining the location and purpose of the conflict. Although edited, most of the lost material deals with the home front; this incarnation of the film is well-paced and grittily relentless once it gets underway. It hasn't been re-mastered to any extent so it shows its age a little. Some reviewers have been dismayed by this; it has some slight grain and a few minor blemishes here and there but I found it quite acceptable. Those of you with large-screen televisions may feel differently - the longer Finnish release has apparently been re-mastered, but costs considerably more than this.
Winter War is also notable for its attention to detail, with authentic looking Russian light tanks, artillery, aircraft and weapons.
The film is presented in 4 x 3 (1.66.1) letterbox format.
"Ambush 1941" ("Rukajärven tie" or "The Road to Rukajärvi" in English) was made in 1999 and directed by Olli Saarela; this film deals with an event during "The Continuation War" in which a bicycle platoon is sent to reconnoitre and flank the Russian front line.
This film has a minor love-story sub-plot which other reviewers have found irksome; I didn't find it all that intrusive, there are some brief flashback episodes as the young officer, Lt. Perkola ( Peter Franzén) daydreams, but it does little to interfere with the storyline. This is a markedly different film to Winter War in that it portrays an incursion deep into enemy held territory; the bicycle element is a different - and authentic - take on this kind of scenario. There has also been a fair amount of attention paid to detail in the military equipment. There are a few tense moments in the platoon's journey, but it gradually builds to the ambush referred to in the title.
Again, some reviewers have issues with the picture quality; again, I found it acceptable, this film does appear to have been re-mastered.
The film is presented in 16 x 9 Anamorphic widescreen and runs for 117 mins.
Both films are in Finnish language with English subtitles only; there are no extras with either disc.
I think this is a very reasonable package; both films - which, incidentally are based on novels by Antti Tuuri - make good additions to any war-film library and are fine examples of Nordic cinema. They are cheaper purchased as a set than as individual items and the set - at time of writing this - costs a fraction of most single-disc Hollywood fare, so they represent good value for your money.