Friday, May 12, 2017

Movie Review: "Land of Mine" (2016)

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Movie"Land of Mine"
Director: Martin Zandvliet
Year: 2016
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Young German prisoners of war are used by the Danish military to clear mine fields by hand during WWII. 

"Land of Mine" is written and directed by Martin Zandvliet and is inspired by true events. It stars Roland Møller as Sgt. Carl Rasmussen, a Danish soldier who runs a small prisoner of war (P.O.W.) camp whose mission is to remove 2.2 million land mines from the Danish coast. He is assigned a small group of young German POWs to accomplish this task. The young prisoners are forced to crawl on their hands and knees along the beach day in and day out, combing and searching for these mines and manually disarming them one by one. It is believed as many as 2,000 German POWs were forced to clear landmines from various Danish beaches following Germany's surrender in 1945.

This is an interesting film for a Danish filmmaker to make as it doesn't put Denmark in the best light. Forcing teenagers to dig up land mines with their bare hands seems rather cruel, even if they fought on the same side as Nazi Germany in WWII. There is a lot of tension in these mine clearing scenes, which make up a big chunk of the film. With the threat of being blown up constantly looming, we are often left on edge of our seats waiting for the BOOM!, which does come on multiple occasions.

This movie does go beyond clearing explosives as characters on rival sides of this conflict start to come to an understanding as the film clicks by scene by scene. At the start, there is a clear disdain on the part of Sgt. Ramussen for his German prisoners. However, as he gets to know some of them on a deep and personal level, he begins to sympathize with them and their struggles. He stops seeing them as faceless cogs in the German murder machine and starts recognizing them as individual human beings with feelings, lives, and backstories. He forms the biggest bond with a POW named Sebastian Schumann, played by Louis Hoffman. While Hoffman does a fantastic job making the audience empathize with a Nazi Germany soldier, it is Roland Møller that gives the best performance in the film. His initially cruel Sgt. Rasmussen has no love lost for those who fought for Nazi Germany, no matter the age of the soldiers, and he has no problem regularly telling the young POWs in his company what he thinks of them in angry, brutal detail. We are not familiar with Møller's work as an actor, but we are going to make it a point to seek it out because he is excellent here.

"Land of Mine" has a great amount of tension, as well as a more touching human element. If waffles between taut and heartbreaking, patriotic and bloody. This is a solid offering from Martin Zandvliet and was definitely deserving of a spot on the Academy Award nominations list for best foreign language feature 2016.

BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 88%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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