Film / Max Manus

A 2008 Norwegian film about the eponymous World War II resistance fighter Maximo "Max" Manus, who after a short deployment fighting Russians in Finland returns to Norway to find it occupied by the Germans, and ends up joining a British special forces unit to conduct commando missions around Norway. Notable as one of the highest-grossing Norwegian films ever, as well as sparking much domestic debate about the glorification of the resistance movement.


Provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: The Gestapo chief Siegfried Fehmer is courteous, cultured and loves the country he is helping occupy — so much, in fact, that he does not balk at torture and killing to get rid of the resistance fighters.
  • Anyone Can Die: Played straight and foreshadowed — in the beginning of the film, it is made clear to Max that chances of survival in the commando unit is minimal. The scene where the group plans their first raid, Operation Mardonius, is notable in this regard because out of all the people in the scene, only Max survives the war.
  • Based on a True Story: Though with a few notable exceptions, such as overplaying Max's role in Finland, where it is not certain if he saw any action at all. Though Maximo Manus himself was not alive when the movie was released, his widow stated that she found it an accurate portrayal.
  • Balcony Escape: Max Manus. Twice in a row.
  • BANG Flag Gun: Max is shown playing around with an air pistol while his voiceover narrates how amateurish they were in the early days.
  • Bathroom Break-Out: Max tries this, but two Gestapo agents stand directly behind him with drawn guns while he urinates. He has to jump out the window instead.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Knowing he'll be tortured until he breaks then executed, Tallak hangs himself in his cell.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The film ends with the death of Hitler and the liberation of Europe. However, Max Manus is pretty much a mental wreck at this point, having lost countless close friends and blaming himself for their deaths, and feeling obsolete and worthless without a war ("nothing is more pathetic than a soldier no one has a use for"). He's also given up on ever getting Tikken to fall in love with him. Although he does end up marrying Tikken, the 'conclusion text' before the end credits reveal that he will struggle with depression and alcoholism for the rest of his life.
  • Break the Cutie: Max Manus himself, as well as Tallak when he is captured by the Germans.
  • Dance of Romance: Averted; Tikken walks out when a drunken Max tries to dance with her, before things get too intimate.
  • Don't Tell Mama: A young Resistance member has them duck into an alley to hide from the Gestapo, then admits he's actually hiding from his mother who thinks he's safe in Sweden. Max finds this Actually Pretty Funny.
  • Everyone Comes Back Fantasy Party Ending: Alone in his apartment at the end of the war, Max has an Imagine Spot where all his friends are alive and drinking a toast to him.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: "Tikken"'s first meeting with Max Manus. Tikken in turn is mistaken for a secretary.
  • Fake Defector: Greger and Tallak are caught by a sting operation involving a fake anti-Nazi German. Greger realises they're under surveillance and things degenerate into a shootout.
  • False Flag Operation: The Norweigen commandos wear British uniforms and leave a taunting message in English so the Germans will not retaliate against the locals. Realising the raid had to be aided by local dock workers, several are selected to be shot anyway.
  • Fiery Coverup: La Résistance are out to destroy the government records to forestall a move to conscript Norwegians for the Russian front. One archive is blown up, but the other set of archives are in a block of flats with civilians living there, so Max insists they burn the documents in the fireplace even through it takes all night. Once daylight arrives the police show up to investigate all the smoke coming from the chimney and things rapidly go From Bad to Worse.
  • Foreign-Language Tirade: At one point, a disillusioned and possibly slightly delirious Max delivers a heartfelt monologue about his resistance fight to a German sailor who appears to not understand his language. Fortunately, reality does not ensue here — he really doesn't understand Norwegian.
  • Handshake Refusal: When they finally meet face-to-face at the end of the war, Max refuses to shake Fehmer's hand at first, but does so at the end of their conversation.
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: Max does this with a German sailor on the train he's traveling on.
  • Highly Conspicuous Uniform: On their first mission someone wants to know why their commando uniforms don't have the Norwegian flag on the shoulder, but it's pointed out they're posing as British commandos in the hope that the Germans won't retaliate against the locals. After the liberation when they're escorting the King for his Tickertape Parade, Max notes their uniform now proudly shows off their flag.
  • Hopeless War: La Résistance is seen as this at first. When Max arrives in Scotland to join the commandoes, it's pointed out that only the stupid or mad would join given that the Germans appear to be winning on all fronts.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Max is pursued by a motorcycle with machine-gun equipped sidecar. The latter misses while Max is able to shoot it with his Sten gun slung over his shoulder, firing backwards under his arm.
  • Instant Thunder: Averted; Max and Greger are observing a harbor at long range, waiting for the bombs they planted to go off. They are momentarily distracted and the viewer can see the bloom of the explosion behind them before the sound reaches both the characters and the viewer.
  • Kneel Before Frodo: Max is being decorated by the King of Norway. Max tells the King he's an inspiration to them all, but the King replies that actually Max is their inspiration.
  • Left the Background Music On: A rather horrible version; when Tallak gets captured by the Nazis, we see him again hanging bloodied in a dungeon somewhere, in the background, eerie, classical music is playing, until Tallak angrily yells to at least "turn that fucking music off" (roughly translated). Cut to the fat torturer who takes the needle off the LP, silencing the music, and starts a small conversation with his prisoner. He then resumes the music and it becomes background music again as the screen fades.
  • Loud of War: As well as physical torture, the Gestapo play the same record over and over to break down Tallak.
  • MacGuffin: Max Manus is obsessed with sinking the Donau, a huge and heavily-armed German cargo ship shipping supplies and prisoners between Norway and Germany on a daily basis.
  • Make It Look Like a Struggle: Max escapes from hospital with the help of a nurse, who tells Max to hit her. Although he obligingly gives her a black eye (after a grateful kiss), the Gestapo aren't fooled and arrest her anyway.
  • Manly Tears: Max sheds a few, and Tikken tells him it's nothing to be ashamed of.
  • Marked Bullet: The limpet mines planted on the Donau have the names of their colleagues who were killed earlier in the movie written on them.
  • Meet Cute: Max and his love Tikken, one of the women in Sweden helping the Allied resistance fighters.
  • Missed Him by That Much: Fehmer literally bumps into the Donau saboteurs as they're leaving the dock and even thinks he recognizes one of them, but brushes it off.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Fehmer being an example of the cultured one.
  • No Kill Like Overkill: A Resistance member gets shot by a machine-gun equipped truck that runs his body over a moment later.
  • Older Than They Look: Kjakan was 21 when the war broke out, but he looks like a teenager in the film. The real Kjakan didn't look that young at that time.
  • Parachute in a Tree: Max finds himself hanging upside down from a tree the first time he jumps into Norway.
  • Planning with Props: Operation Mardonius is planned with cigarette packets showing the position of the ships.
  • Prat Fall: In a tense moment when they're approaching the checkpoint to the docks, one of the saboteurs slips in the snow, causing both them and the watching Germans to break out laughing.
  • Present Day Past: Tikken revealed herself to be quite into slang of The Noughties at one point in the movie.
  • Properly Paranoid:
    • One resistance member says he sleeps in a different location every night, and remonstrates with Max about staying in the safehouse where he thinks his fellow Resistance fighters will protect him.
    • A German soldier randomly fires his submachine gun into the water near the Donau's hull to deter saboteurs, who nearly get hit by such a burst just when they've finished planting the bombs.
    • Max refuses to leave for Sweden without the rest of his group. When he goes to the safehouse however, he's smart enough to sneak in the back way and peek in the window. He sees the occupants dead on the floor and German soldiers waiting with their guns pointed at the door.
  • Protagonist Title.
  • Reliably Unreliable Guns
    • Lars gets killed when he tries to shoot a German soldier and his gun jams.
    • Max is showing off a hammerless automatic and accidentally gets shot. The wound isn't serious but he has to go to Sweden for treatment. While he's away, his friend Greger is killed in an ambush.
  • Reality Ensues: there are several scenes which fans of action films would expect to turn out differently than they do. For example, when Max Manus jumps through a closed window, several stories over a cobblestone street, he is heavily injured both by the cuts and the impact with the ground, and ends up bedridden in a hospital. There is also a scene where two of his comrades meet with an alleged Nazi informant in a cafe, only to realize they've walked into a setup and that they are surrounded by heavily armed Nazis. Perhaps surprisingly to fans of Hollywood flicks, they don't miraculously win the ensuing firefight.
  • Rule of Cool: The movie made a point of making some scenes more action-like than they actually were. The first Balcony Escape had Max hitting one of the police men before jumping. In Real Life, he just said "look", and pointed to a picture on the wall before jumping, having made them turn around for a moment.
    • Max Manus lampshaded this himself in his memoirs (when describing his arrest): "If this had been a movie, I probably would have been a badass and tried shooting myself out of the mess. As it were, I just put down my gun and said: Hi, guys!"
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Max keeps getting flashbacks of the war in Finland, and doesn't feel any better after WW2 either.
  • Sound-Only Death: During the mass roundup after the Donau is sunk, a Resistance member is shown entering a building only for the windows to light up with gunfire flashes from the Germans waiting in ambush.
  • Sticky Bomb: The limpet mines. While rehearsing the raid in Scotland the limpet mine doesn't stick to the hull and Greger jokes that it will be fine on the night, which fortunately turns out to be true.
  • Super Window Jump: Reality Ensues when Max just ends up in hospital after trying this trope. However after a second successful attempt, he finds he's become Famed In-Story as the guy who jumped out the window.
  • Surprisingly Good Foreign Language: The German actor playing the German Gestapo officer Siegfried Fehmer did not speak a word of Norwegian when he was hired. Undeterred, he decided to teach himself Norwegian for his participation in the film.
  • Survivor Guilt: one of Max's biggest weaknesses is that he seems to blame himself every time one of his comrades dies.
  • Tempting Fate: Greger jibes Max about his famous Super Window Jump, only to end up getting falling through a window in a hail of German bullets.
  • Tickertape Parade: Max serves as part of the King's honor guard at the end of the movie. Although at first he keeps hallucinating absent friends and German soldiers in the crowd, he starts to snap out of his Heroic B.S.O.D. on realising the war really is over.
  • To Absent Friends: Inverted when Max has an Imagine Spot of his fallen comrades drinking a toast to him. As they're not there, he goes on a bender instead until Tikken arrives to snap him out of it.
  • Underground Railroad: The medics and nurses at Ullevaal hospital, where Max ended up after his first Balcony Escape. The medical staff nursed him back to health, and made sure he got out of Norway in one piece. Truth in Television: The medical staff at Ullevaal helped quite a few resistance people during the war.
  • Voice of the Resistance: Greger believes strongly in the importance of propaganda to counter the Propaganda Machine of their German occupiers, despite the increased risk of distributing an underground newspaper and flyers.
  • War Is Hell: Especially resistance warfare. The constant paranoia of getting caught, and many, many friends you've known for years getting killed.
  • We Have to Get the Bullet Out: Justified; Max is shot when a pistol accidentally discharges in the safehouse. At first Max thinks he's dying from all the blood, but it turns out the injuries are superficial because the bullet fragmented. However the doctor informs him that he's not able to find all the fragments, which could cause infection if left in place. Max has to be evacuated to neutral Sweden so he can go to a hospital, and while he's away his best friend Greger is caught in an ambush and killed.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: After a Resistance raid goes wrong, Max reads in The Quisling newspaper about three terrorists shot dead. In response Greger indicates the underground newspaper he's typing.
    Greger: There's two sides to every story.
    Greger: Then it's up to us, I guess.


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