It might be a slight entry into the canon of both World War II films and survivalist tales where enemies have to band together in a time a crisis, but the Norwegian produced (though predominantly English language) drama Into the White certainly isn’t an unwelcome one. There’s not a ton in here that hasn’t been seen before, but great chemistry amongst the cast and some solid individual performances make it worth one’s time.
Based on true events in April 1940, a trio of German pilots (Florian Lukas, David Kross, and Stig Henrik Hoff) find themselves shot down over the snowy and formidable Norwegian mountains. They happen upon a cabin for warmth and shelter despite limited supplies and a rapidly dwindling chance of being rescued. They are joined by a pair of unwelcome guests in the form of an also shot down RAF duo – Captain Davenport (Lachlan Nieboer) and Gunner Smith (Rupert Grint). Taking the Brits hostage, things are tense for a while, but slowly they all realize that they’re in an unwinnable situation unless they all start cooperating.
Director Petter Neass (2001’s Oscar nominated Elling) directs from a three scribe script that doesn’t really break any new territory that other wintry survival thrillers haven’t already covered, but it’s relatively tame in that respect. There aren’t any wolves out to get these guys or any real threat of cannibalism, but the weather is pretty brutal. Ditto the WWII aspect that really isn’t all that far removed from other tales where guys come to a common understanding that they were just following orders and that they all just want to go home, get back on with their lives, and put this stupid war behind them. At least the transition from foes to uneasy friends isn’t immediate, but a gradual acceptance made over the course of about a week. The politics of the Nazis and the Allied Forces fighting for control of Norway’s precious natural resources are totally secondary to the squabbles from without and within. It’s merely a backdrop for the human drama, but at least the drama is tightly paced and trimmed of any potentially melodramatic fat.
The real meat comes from the performances, particularly from Lukas in what will probably be his most recognized role in North America since Good Bye Lenin. As the young German leader, he seems scared by his houseguests an unsure of how to proceed, but he’s nothing if not pragmatic. Nieboer is every bit the match of Lukas as the proper Brit counterpoint who tries to skilfully manipulate the situation to an amenable outcome before everyone starts to go stir crazy. As for former Harry Potter actor Grint, he’s fine and a commanding enough presence as the acid tongued and impetuous co-pilot, but his character rarely gets a chance to rise above being a snivelling little snot.
Overall, fans of World War II genre films will find some enjoyment here. It might not be as meaty as most films of this kind, but there certainly isn’t a heck of a lot wrong with it. It’s pretty clichéd, but at least its comfortable being that way.