In the later years of the Cold War, Norwegian Politician and Diplomat Arne Treholt was charged and convicted of Treason and spying against his country on behalf of the Soviet Union (and Iraq.) Damning surveillance footage placed Treholts guilt beyond any doubt.
In the imagination of Thomas Capellan Malling however things were never that simple and easy to explain. To Mallings eyes Treholt was a loyal patriot, a true and faithful servant of King Olaf V, and whats more the commander of a secret cabal of Ninjas sworn to defend the King and the Kingdom! Everything he did was part of his covert mission to protect the nation, and this film depicts the rollercoaster rocket ride of events leading up to Treholt's “Disgrace”.
Espionage and betrayal are not in themselves unusual themes for narrative exploration. People love Spys. We love the tough resourceful self reliant types who can live a shadow life to defend us. We love the gadgets and adventure, the cars and the glamorous exotic locations. We love the people who “know more than we do” whose lives take them “through the looking glass” into conspiracies and secret deals.
“Well,” reasoned Malling “That’s all very well, but people also love Ninjas, for similar reasons. Plus they come from an ancient and mystical culture with deeper understanding of things spiritual, and their costumes and gadgets really kick ass too. Wonder if having a secret force of ninja/ spy/ covert operators (Working for the Norwegian Crown) would be at all interesting?’
I’m guessing that’s how the thought process went. Seems logical to me, and as it turns out he was right. It is very interesting indeed. The cultural ‘Mash Up’ of Norge meets Ninja is fascinating to begin with and Mallings quirkily imagined execution of it is just bizarre and fascinating to watch.
The Plot is there too. Obviously the Cold War is fertile ground for conspiracy theories, and the film draws on a well explored subject matter. The Ninjas find themselves in direct opposition to some CIA funded bunch of thugs called “Stay Behind” who are busy convincing European countries to vote in Hawkish Pro American Governments by running false flag terror attacks. Their latest plan involves several attacks on the Norwegian population and Royal Family and the Ninjas Must stop them.
All this going on and Treholt is training a young and inexperienced apprentice.
It’s a witty Cold War meets Eastern Mysticism action espionage spoof. I say witty here but to be honest I get the feeling that either the best jokes and gags don’t translate to written English too well (Subtitled) or that Norwegian Humour is quite a lot more subtle even in a movie of this ilk.
Either way, a lot of the humour comes from the absolute deadpan delivery of farcical dialogue from Mads Oussdal playing Treholt. Many of the supporting cast seem to be wearing permanently bemused expressions.
The special effects are obviously not going to be ILM standard on an indie flick like this, and it often works completely in it’s favour, the underwater races for example have a real seventies action series feel to them, and the jump cut editing to accompany smoke grenade surprise infiltrations are slick and amusing. And all this sits seamlessly next to some pretty good “invisibility suit” scenes and more than convincing martial arts.
The whole thing hangs together like some tripped out schoolkids dream, the story is engaging and the characters, though overblown and fantastic, are likeable and intriguing. Like any good action movie it draws you in and keepsyou there as things take a turn to the darker in the final third.
Reviewing movies for Flashbang has provided me with many opportunities. This was my first Norwegian Ninja Espionage Factional Bio-Pic. And I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Watch it for the pure entertainment, not for the action and you’ll enjoy it too.
8 out of 10 (Sulaco)
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