In May 1945 the German occupying force of Denmark has been defeated and are in retreat. A Danish Sergeant is charged with taking German prisoners of war and clearing the hundreds of thousands of Mines that the German Army placed along the coast in case that was the point of attack. The Sergeant has an understandable and violent temper when it comes to the young men that are trained to be the mine finders.
This week I have been to see the new Dunkirk movie from Christopher Nolan and as you know I don’t do research on the films I’m watching, I don’t watch trailers, I like to go see a film and be entertained. So when the movie started this morning I turned to a fellow reviewer and said this is a companion piece to Dunkirk, while it’s not in any sense of the word it is set during World War 2, and now I’m a little worn out with War movies. I have to say though while different in their approaches and story to the same war the films are both two of the best of the year.
The story is simple enough, German Prisoners of War are treated like dirt by the Danish and fellow Allies, placed in the most dangerous position possible, to disarm the thousands upon thousands of mines along the shores. It’s dangerous work and many die during the disarming process. The POW’s are little more than teenagers, conscripted into the German army, and just want to go home. They are promised that once the mines are cleared they will be free to leave. If they survive.
While it’s not going to be for everyone out there this is one of those films where the story and the performances just carry you through. Sgt. Carl, the Danish commander in charge of the POW’s, is at the start a bitter and hate filled man, he loves his country and the German invaders are little more than scum to him. Roland Moller is just masterful in this role, you feel every emotion that he goes through, his wanting to be a good Dane, knowing that these teens that are just the pawns and yet still hating them.
Each member of the cast from the POW’s to the Danish Soldiers who care little about the welfare of their prisoners is just at the top of their profession giving honest performances which lead you to believe the story being told. That story is based on a truth, that thousands of German POW’s were killed while clearing the mines, and their treatment by the Allied Forces. We always hear about how the Germans and the Japanese treated POW’s, and I’m not saying that we shouldn’t, but it’s rare that we get the honesty of how the Allied treated their prisoners.
While this film concentrates mostly on the drama of the story there are moments that your heart is pounding in your chest with nervous tension. I’ve seen a lot of movies about bombs being diffused and none have given that knot in the stomach that this film gave. The desperation of both sides, the loss of hope, and the brief moments of joy. This is a story that points out that while on different sides of good versus evil they are all soldiers, all children of their countries, all just trying to get to the same point, to get home. It’s a tough watch but in the end uplifting and well scripted, performed, and with a true sense of the meaning of war and the different meanings of victory. If you like War films that have a heavy dramatic side rather than the action side then this is for you.
Director: Martin Zandvliet
Writer: Martin Zandvliet
Stars: Roland Møller, Louis Hofmann, Joel Basman