THE 12th MAN was dude enough for a dozen and then some. From Norway in 2017 comes an amazing true-life survival saga, WW2 subset. The harrowing story of Jan Baalsrud—one of Norway’s most-revered resistance heroes from the days of Nazi occupation— had been told before, in books and in the 1957 Norwegian movie Ni Liv/Nine Lives which pulled an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film. Directed by Harald Zwart, this updated epic telling, written by Petter Skavlan, was based off the 2001 book “Jan Baalsrud and Those Who Saved Him“, written by Tore Haug and Astrid Karlsen Scott.
1943. When the rest of his commando team is killed or captured, 25-year-old Norwegian patriot Jan Baalsrud is the only one to escape. Wounded, sick, frostbitten and starving, he endures all that for nine weeks, while crossing mountains into neutral Sweden. He’s aided by numerous civilians, risking torture and execution to see that he makes it: the nigh-impossible trek inspires the occupied country and enrages the Nazis tasked with finding him.
Detailed production design, beautiful location shooting, tense action, some self-doctoring moments guaranteed to make you squirm and a one-of-a-kind finale that lends new meaning to the word “dash”. The stoic heroics never feel false. Excellent work from Thomas Gullestad in the lead (a grueling physical performance), and focused intensity from Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Kurt Stage, the ruthless SS officer in charge of the pursuit.
Produced for $7,405,000, it grossed $9,555,000. Makes a fine companion piece with another superior Norway-fights-back thriller, 2008’s Max Manus: Man of War. With Marie Blokhus, Mads Sjøgård Pettersen and Martin Kiefer. 135 minutes.