• 12th Man, The (Shout Factory) Blu-Ray Review

    Released By: IFC Midnight
    Released On: October 2, 2018.
    Director: Harald Zwart
    Cast: Thomas Gullestad, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Marie Blokhus, Mads Sjøgård Pettersen, Vegar Hoel, Martin Kiefer
    Year: 2017

    12th Man - Movie Review:

    You know the setting for the story; it's World War II, and the Nazis are beating the holy hell out of Europe. Hitting Norway to take in the fjords and have a delicious pizza, Hitler's army continues to rain shells and terror over the population as they move north, prompting the normally peaceful Norwegians to contemplate taking some action. Panning over to Scotland, viewers of The 12th Man get their first glimpse of the Allies' plan; the training of twelve Norwegians, who will head back to their homeland, make contact with locals who are anxious to see the Germans sent packing, and engage in a campaign of sabotage.

    Things, of course, go horribly wrong, when the saboteurs are discovered offshore by the Nazis, prompting the Norwegians to blow up the boat to get rid of the evidence, and flee the scene. But the cold, snowy landscape and even colder water prevents escape, with only Jan Baalsrud managing to escape after shooting two Germans. His getaway is far from clean, though, as Jan manages to get part of a toe shot off before taking an icy bath in the fjord to get away from his pursuers.

    Most would have chalked Jan up as dead, being that the local water temperature was somewhere around freezing, but SS Officer Kurt Stage (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) bristles at the idea of sending Adolph a false report. And so, after taking the initiative to prove to his men that their quarry could have survived the frigid swim, the Nazis begin an intense campaign of torturing the remaining eleven men for their secrets. Jan, meanwhile, manages to find a sympathetic home and gets bandaged up, warmed up, and fed up, but is warned that the wound to his foot will likely lead to a fatal case of gangrene.

    With the mission abandoned, the good news is that Jan doesn't have to travel very far; just over to friendly, unoccupied Sweden; to make his escape from the boys in black. The bad news is that Jan's colleagues are having bad things done to their fingernails to prompt information as to where Jan could be heading. Oh, and they have the mission dossier including names of sympathizers, who will likely be receiving an unpleasant visit. It's not a race, it's a slow, gruelling crawl through hostile conditions, littered with avalanches, Nazi checkpoints, and a rapidly growing infection, as Jan makes the best of his resources and defies the odds in his journey to freedom, a living symbol of hope and courage to the Norwegian people.

    Based on the actual crazy adventures of the real Jan Baalsrud, a member of the actual Operation Martin, The 12th Man may take a few liberties with actual events, but that's by no means a detriment to the film. While there are a few action setpieces to be found, this is a creeping, emotional story that seems to cover Baalsrud's horrific journey in real time, showcasing each near impracticable obstacle and driving them home with blunt force. Standard guts and gore are absent (outside of the intense torture scenes), making way for snapped fingernails, busted limbs, bruising, and hemorrhaging.

    In and amongst the grittiness, however, is the triumph of the human spirit; Jan's own, for sure, but also the individuals and families spread across the region, who secretly defy the order of an inhuman army who will most certainly reward them with death should they be found out, sympathizers who risk their lives to help a complete stranger to safety, so that his story can inspire others.

    The beautiful but cold-as hell Norwegian scenery is a huge component of what makes The 12th Man a success, and while some imagination may be required to fully swallow the story, it's not difficult to imagine the struggle against nature that Baalsrud must have faced. The other aspect of his fight, the Nazi element, is delivered in spades in the form of Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Kurt Stage, and his sidekick Wenders (Martin Kiefer), who manage to capture both the brutal rage and determination of the SS, with Kiefer's Wenders absolutely nailing the insidious reptilian characteristic of Hitler's infamous police force. Discussion around fine performances in this film must also include mention of Thomas Gullestad, who we spend over two hours with; in this largely silent role, body language is everything, and Gullestad delivers Jan more than competently enough to warrant investing 135 minutes in his character.

    12th Man - Blu-Ray Review:

    Shout Factory brings this IFC Midnight release to Blu-ray in a 2.40:1 transfer that is AVC-encoded, and indicative of a modern transfer. Lines are crisp, with the stark colour palette representing the scenery nicely, with deep blacks and solid contrast. Although DTS-HD 5.1 and stereo options are the first up in the audio list, you'll likely want to check out the Norwegian/German DTD HD 5.1 and 2.0 options for the program audio, enabling English subtitles. The English tracks don't sound terrible, but the dubbing is (obviously) obvious. The Norwegian/German tracks both sound fantastic, with the edge being given to the 5.1 for opening up the sound field and letting that suspense-building score breathe a bit more, but the 2.0 track is also solid. No distortion or his to be found here.

    Do you like Trailers? Hopefully you do, because there's a Trailer for The 12th Man to be found, plus a handful of trailers when the disc starts up.

    12th Man - The Final Word:

    A surprisingly effective film, The 12th Man manages to both entertain and inform, with solid performances across the board and beautiful, though sometimes terrifying scenery.

    Click on the images below for full sized 12th Man Blu-ray screen caps!