19 March 2017 | paul-allaer
Tough-as-nails post-WW II soldier drama from Denmark
"Land of Mine" (2015 release from Denmark; original title: Under sandet, ('Under the Sand'); 100 min.) brings the story of a group of German POWs in Denmark. As the movie opens, we are reminded it is "Denmark, May 1945", right after the end of WW II. We get to know Danish Sgt. Rasmussen, who--after violently lashing out against German soldiers leaving the country--is assigned to de-mine an area on Denmark's western coast. Apparently the Nazis anticipated a possible invasion there, incorrectly as we all know. Rasmussen gets the help of about a dozen German soldiers who are ordered to actually do the work. When the soldiers arrive, it turns out most of them are just boys. As the Germans are trained on how to de-mine, one of them accidentally detonates a mine and dies. At this point we are a good 10 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is a high-profile (more on that later) and expensive (for European standards) production that brings to the big screen a post WWI episode not well known by the public at large (in the movie's end titles, we learn that more than 2,000 German soldiers were involved in this enormous mining clearance project). The movie's underlying tension (namely, at any time one of those landmines may detonate when making a minor error) rarely lets up, keeping us at the edge of our seat. On top of that, there are several outright brutal scenes involving Sgt. Rasmussen's attitude towards the boy soldiers (it somehow reminded me of the first half hour of Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket). All that said, while one certainly may have empathy for the boy soldiers as a group, I found it difficult to have the same emotional investment for the individual boys, as frankly they all seemed interchangeable to me within the movie's context. But in the end, this is an eye-opening movie on many levels. Danish actor Roland Møller in the role of Sgt. Rasmussen is nothing short of extraordinary.
"Land of Mine" received immediate critical acclaim upon its release in 2015 and in fact was nominated for the 2016 Best Foreign Language Movie Oscar, yes, LAST year's Oscars. I have no idea why this movie is just now opening up in US theaters, but better late than never I suppose. The Saturday matinée screening where I saw this at in Ft. Myers was attended very nicely, much to my surprise. If you are interested in a slice of WW II history that you may not be familiar with, I urge you to check this out, be it in theater, or later on Amazon Instant Video on eventually on DVD/Blu-ray. "Land of Mine" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!