This multi-language film was made in Norway and celebrates a genuine hero of the Norwegian underground from World War II. Many films have been made about the French underground and resistance movements in other countries, including Norway. Only since the fall of the Iron Curtain (circa 1990), has the Western world been able to see some of the fine movies made about WW II in Eastern European countries. While an occasional WW II movie is still made in America, European war films tend to be superior since the turn of the 21st century. One would expect that to be the case with the nations where the war was fought. The memories, records and stories aren't so soon forgotten in the places where people lived through the horror, fear and oppression, and so many lost their lives.
A few very good films have been made about Norwegian resistance. The earliest of those, "The Day Will Dawn" (aka, "The Avengers"), was made and released in Great Britain in June 1942. "Commandos Strike at Dawn," was a Columbia movie that came out Dec. 30, 1942. It was shown in the United Kingdom and the Americas in 1943. It made theaters in neutral Sweden in March 1944. "The Moon is Down" was a 1943 film by 20th Century Fox. It is about the German takeover of a Norwegian mining town, and the local resistance to the Nazis. These are among the best of the Norwegian underground movies.
"Max Manus: Man of War" joins that list. This is a Norwegian film about a hero who led a life rife with killing for a war effort. It was made in 2008, a little over a decade after Manus died. It is one of the very best of all films made about Nazi resistance during World War II. This is an easy film to follow with English subtitles. The cast will mostly be little known west of the pond, but all do very well. Aksel Hennie is superb as Max Manus.
Hennie portrays Manus as a man who loved his native country and was willing to fight to free it – even to death. But he also shows the emotional battles that Manus struggled through. He has flashbacks about killing an enemy soldier in Finland. He weeps over friends who are killed. And, he makes cold calculating decisions for actions that may kill innocent people. So, this film shows the inner turmoil and struggles over killing.
Manus was something of a soldier of fortune before WW II. He had traveled to and worked in the jungles of South America and Latin America. The film shows his volunteer fighting for Finland in 1939-40 when Russia invaded that country. The film can't show all of the story, obviously, but before Manus got to England and Scotland for training, he was in the U.S. and Canada. When the USSR entered the war, Manus escaped from Norway east across Scandinavia to Russia, then down to Turkey and by ship to Capetown and on to America. He began training in the U.S. and Canada before crossing the Atlantic to England.
The film has a nice ending, as it really happened, with Manus riding in a victory car as the main guard to the prince of Norway. He was attracted to his British embassy contact in Stockholm, Tikken Lindebraekke. At the end of the movie, she goes off with her husband and daughter. In real life, Manus and Tikken were married in 1947. After the war, Manus had a successful office supply company. He had frequent nightmares and bouts of depression with alcoholism. He wrote books about his earlier adventures and the war, and gave interviews. He lived to age 81, and died Sept. 20, 1996, in Spain. He and Tikken moved there after retiring.
In spite of some of the technical aspects of this film, I rate it highly. The jumpiness of the cam shots is distracting and doesn't help the film. The plot does skip too abruptly in places, and I suspect that is due to some cutting during the edit to keep the film from being too long. Still, because of the detailed treatment of the Norwegian resistance surrounding this one man and his cohorts, I give the movie nine stars. It gives a real-life picture that we haven't seen in many resistance films set during WW II.