Erik Skjoldbjærg’s Narvik is a stunning-looking war film that’s naturally gripping and does an above-average job playing up the moral dilemmas despite, at times, being frustratingly inert.
We review the Netflix film Narvik, which does not contain spoilers or significant plot points.
Narvik was the first defeat of Hitler’s waged war against the world. The battle was in a small town in the Scandinavian region that was blessed with resources to allow Germany to stockpile to win the war. It’s a story rich with possibilities and naturally cinematic — an honest-to-God David versus Goliath tale that, at times, can be riveting, and sometimes frustratingly inert.
Narvik Review and Plot Summary
The story takes place in Narvik, a coastal town in Norway that is a source of one of the world’s greatest iron ore resources. Of course, Hitler, as his master race, wants to expand his ever-growing empire. Defending the northern then is a regiment including Corporal Gunnar Tofte (Carl Martin Eggesbo), who visits his wife Ingrid (Kristine Hartgen) and small son Ole (Christoph Gelfert Mathiesen) for a bit of rest and relaxation. When he returned late at night, the Germans landed on the beach, and the Norwegian Colonel surrendered his weapon.
Gunnar and the remaining soldiers refuse to surrender their weapons, so they leave town, led by their commander, Major Omdal (an excellent Henrik Mestad). Meanwhile, Ingrid knows German and begins to be a translator for the German officers at the best hotel in town. She even helps the English diplomats (one played by Billy Campbell) escape and hide in a mountaintop cabin.
One of the themes of the film is survival. For one, Gunnar and his mates must blow up a bridge that carries the rich ore out of town. Even if successful, he will most likely be caught as a prisoner of war (POW), and the rumor is Germans kill all POWs. Meanwhile, Ingrid has to watch over Ole, all while keeping a fake smile on her face, to stay on the good side of their new German landlords. And if it’s not their sworn enemies, Ingrid has to disarm with her charm. It’s the English counsel, as they try to blackmail her into sleeping with German officials to spy and gather information.
Directed by Erik Skjoldbjaerg and written by Christopher Grondahl, Narvik is another World War 2 European-produced film that Netflix has stockpiled. Ones like the excellent Danish film The Bombardment and the Dutch film The Forgotten Battle. Erik Skjoldbjærg’s film is visually striking, with some stunningly cinematic shots from the director of photography John-Erling Holmenes Fredriksen, including a well-crafted bridge battle and one where Norwegian soldiers attempt to retake Narvik.
What works for Narvik is how the script can show the ambiguity of the blurred lines for some of the citizens in town. For one, Norway was neutral and had no allegiance to anyone. The script allows the viewer to ask the question what would they do? Especially with a child involved and everyone looking out for themselves. That said, the film is scattershot, jumping around various timelines by jumping between stories without establishing a natural flow.
Is Narvik good?
Erik Skjoldbjærg’s film is a stunning-looking war film that’s naturally gripping and does an above-average job playing up the moral dilemmas. Along with solid turns by Eggesbø, Hartin, and the magnetic Henrik Mestad, Narvik is a war film worth streaming.
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