THE 12TH MAN

Cert 15 135mins Stars 3

It’s ice cold in Oslo in this second world war thriller based on an extraordinary real life mission which inspired a nation when all hope was gone.

With wartime moral at its lowest point and his country in despair at Nazi occupation, Norwegian patriot Jan Baalsrud was one of a dozen Scottish-trained saboteurs sent home on a mission to destroy military airfields and installations.

But when his colleagues are caught and his mission plans are intercepted, the injured Baalsrud makes a daring attempt for the heavily guarded border with Sweden, a neutral country.

Among the perils he faces are avalanches, fighter planes and frostbite, plus moments of gruesome horror as he endures some emergency do-it-yourself surgery which Arctic explorer Ranulph Fiennes would be impressed by.

Through his contact with the farmers, fishermen and midwives who help him, we see how Baalsrud’s epic journey raised morale, inspired those he met with his grim determination, and turned him into a folk hero for the fragile resistance movement.

Thomas Gullestad delivers an  impressively physical and convincingly anguished performance as Baalsrud, whose arduous cross country journey across the bleakly beautiful landscape of the Norwegian artic circle is reminiscent of Leonardo DiCaprio’s in 2015’s The Revenant.

In order to convey the importance of this marathon journey the filmmakers want us to experience every painful and punishing step of the muscle sapping way.

And as the unrelenting harshness of the Norwegian winter closes in, so do the merciless and brutal Nazis, in the form of Brit actor. Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

Best known as Henry VIII from TV’s The Tudors, he plays a vindictive SS Officer for whom it is a matter of professional prestige and personal pride to apprehend the saboteur.

Although initially a bit of a slog the final leg is superbly staged and finger chewingly tense, leaving me with almost as few nails as our frost-bitten hero.

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