Narvik (2023) Movie Review – Hitler’s first battlefield defeat retold with stellar conviction

Hitler’s first battlefield defeat retold with stellar conviction

Every country hesitated before taking on the mighty Germans under Hitler. The dictator was loathed but also feared for his unapologetic, extremist, and ruthless style. Even with their powerful resources and technology, none dared to run into his path directly. Imagine, then, the courage it took for a handful of Norwegian soldiers to defy all odds and hand over Hitler his first loss in the second world war.

Their triumph in reclaiming Narvik is retold with stellar conviction in the titular film. Director Erik Skjoldbjærg gives an inspirational account of the event without glorifying the apathy of war and yet preserving his own penchant for storytelling.

If one turns the pages of history books, Narvik seems insignificant in the larger picture. The town became Hitler’s focal point to ship out iron ore for Germany’s weapons from Sweden. When the British and Germans could not sort out their differences through diplomacy, the latter resorted to war. And thus, the heroes of Narvik were raised.

They were forced to surrender but kept on marching out of the town to destroy railroads and prevent the transportation of iron ore. A few of them were taken prisoners of war but they soon recollected with help from the French and Polish to reclaim the city, even if it was only for a brief period.

Narvik’s narrative works on the spokes of the representation of war and a personal story evolving in the town itself. Gunnar, a Norwegian soldier, Ingrid, his wife, and son Ole, are the emotional tangents Skjoldbjærg draws upon to provide emotional resonance. He uses the history of the town well to establish the roots of the story in the unyielding mountainous terrain enveloping it and overlooking the sea.

Narvik compels its main characters to make pivotal choices that define their fates. Back in the city overrun by Germans, Ingrid is a valuable asset for Consul Wussow as his translator. He also fancies her but the real task for Ingrid is to keep her family safe and navigate the dual burden of expectations she faces from the Germans and the British.

For Gunnar, things are tougher. He becomes a prisoner of war and does hard labour for the Germans, before getting help from the French and becoming part of the group that leads Norway to a significant, albeit brief, victory. The stark contrast in those two settings proves to enhance Narvik’s cinematic appeal. It gives Skjoldbjærg multiple avenues to approach the story and treat his subject matter with a well-rounded touch.

Wars are not just about the bullets and tanks used to kill; the impact they leave on ordinary people matters equally, if not more. And with Ingrid’s tangent, Skjoldbjærg makes the most of the opportunity.

The exposition does not dampen the consistent thrill one gets seeing the place bombarded. It has its own place in the narrative. There are some pitfalls in how everything comes together but those nominally impact the overall appeal of Narvik. Like almost all movies about war, Narvik too tends to espouse an anti-war stance for most parts.

The manifestation of that feeling is through visual storytelling when we see the defenceless townies hiding in shelters and eating one meal a day. Their helplessness is weaponized by Skjoldbjærg and the writers to make a defiant statement about how the war changed their lives. Narvik was completely destroyed by the subsequent German bombing but when you have love and family, you have everything.

A strong sense of patriotism also comes through in Narvik. It was perhaps pride and honour more than anything else that won the battle of Narvik for the Norwegians. Those emotions are what prevented them from throwing in the towel and fighting on.

The expression of the same is not jingoist or chest-thumping in any way. In fact, the first time we see derision from Norwegian soldiers is when they unflag the Nazi symbol and unfurl Norway’s flag atop the mountain. Narvik is yet  another moving film about war on Netflix that gets the viewer thinking about the vain nature of it, while also celebrating acts of bravery hitherto hidden from the public eye.


Read More: Narvik Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 7.5/10

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