Max Manus Celebrates the Intrepid Norwegian Adventurer


Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg give the lying-in-state biopic salute to Max Manus, an adventurer who was one of the most intrepid and celebrated figures in the Norwegian resistance. Manus, played by a cagey, compact Askel Hennie, is seen through the grinder of the occupation years. Introduced under fire in the Finnish Winter War of 1940, he’s rarely long out of the fray, lunging through windows, collecting bullet holes, and sabotaging ships in Nazified Oslo (rousing stuff, all). “My country was stolen from me” is Manus’s curt explanation for why he fights, though he and right-hand man Gregers (Nicolai Cleve Broch) can’t tell Norwegian trees from Swedish ones on one of their frequent border jumps. The resistance fighters are deposed God, King, and country to one another, finally. Such bonds of brotherhood are only perfunctorily established, but Hennie’s isolation as he finds himself the last man standing in the victory parades is affecting. An epic by Scandinavian standards, Manus‘s period re-creation is lavish—but the too-polished rental décor doesn’t create a living past. Great Norsemen prove a profitable theme for these directors: Explorer Thor Heyerdahl is their next he-man subject. Considering Manus‘s confused and inconclusive treatment of imported Gestapo villain Siegfried Fehmer (Ken Duken), a more difficult case like pro-Hitler Nobel laureate Knut Hamsun is probably not on the agenda.