Narvik: A Non-Spoiler Review

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Poster for Narvik. Top half has male lead with rifle and ships and harbour in background all in grey-blue. Lower half has female lead carrying a child, a car on fire and town alight and mostly orange/yellow palette.

🇳🇴 NARVIK 🇳🇴

Narvik (2022) is a Norwegian drama/history/war film available on Netflix internationally. 1 hour 48 minutes duration. Rated 15 U.K. In Norwegian, German, French and English with subtitles.


April 1940. The eyes of the world are on Narvik, a small town in northern Norway, the source of the iron ore needed for Hitler’s war machinery. Through two months of fierce winter warfare, Hitler is dealt his first defeat.


Billy Campbell as Consul George L.D. Gibbs
Kristine Hartgen as Ingrid Tofte
Henrik Mestad as Major Sigurd Omdal
Stig Henrik Hoff as Aslak Tofte
Carl Martin Eggesbø as Corporal Gunnar Tofte
Christoph Bach as Consul Fritz Wussow
Magnus Dugdale as Giles Romilly
Holger Handtke as Lieutenant General Eduard Dietl
Mathilde Holtedahl Cuhra as Bjørg
Emil Johnsen as Mayor Theodor Broch
Isak Bakli Aglen as Corporal Larsen


Writers: Christopher Grøndahl, Live Bonnevie, Erik Skjoldbjærg, Sebastian Torngren Wartin
Director: Erik Skjoldbjærg
Composer: Christine Hals
Cinematographer: John-Erling Holmenes Fredriksen
Editor: Martin Stoltz
Costume Designer: Karen Fabritius Gram
Makeup Designer: Dorte Pedersen
Special Effects Supervisor: Kai Kolstad Rødseth
Stunt Coordinator: Kai Kolstad Rødseth


Narvik, Norway
Oslo, Norway
Rjukan, Telemark, Norway


I “enjoy” a good war film. When I say “war film” I mean that in its widest sense to include both the military and the civilian side of things (and, of course, the place where they often intersect). The origins of these sorts of films make for interesting and varied viewing because how these stories are conveyed does vary a lot from country to country as do the stories that are chosen to be told.

Narvik aka Narvik: Hitler’s First Defeat is told very much from the Norwegian perspective, by Norwegians, and there is nothing fundamentally wrong with that; I much prefer that to a film such as The Heroes of Telemark. Revisionist history and interpretations are bound to come into play as well.

I liked the way the film was bookended with historical footage/photographs. Context should be given for particular events. The photographs at the end were particularly effective, I thought.

There was a long stretch of the film which was devoted to life inside Narvik while it was under German occupation (“protection” as it was described by the occupiers themselves). I thought the reconstruction of living conditions, most particularly after the bombardment started was very well done.

The focus upon Gunnar initially, then meeting Ingrid his wife, his father Aslak and young son Ole was good.

A lot of the film’s running time is devoted to the precarious situation Ingrid is in acting as an interpreter for the Germans. It was interesting to see how conflicted and challenged she became especially when faced with a real trolley problem. Parts towards the end did seem somewhat over sentimentalised which didn’t quite fit with the tone of most of the rest of the film. I loved the patriotic parts though because, after all, this victory was against all the odds. Who doesn’t like an underdog story after all?

One scene I enjoyed the most was undoubtedly the long bridge scene in the first act. This was genuinely exciting, the visuals and sound design were striking. The involvement of civilians added much to this. Another was the trench fighting when the French arrived. And the saving grace of the final act was, for me, the fight against the German positions. I would have loved much more of this and some of the slightly more repetitious and slower scenes in the middle act reduced.

The special effects, design, stunt work, makeup and costuming are excellent throughout this film. Anything stunt-wise that includes moving while in flames always earns my admiration but there are a lot of other really impressive aspects such as climbing, fight work and falling. The makeup for injury details is very good. I loved the detailing in the costumes such as the little boy’s knitted hat and sweater.

This is a solid war film but it didn’t impact me as deeply emotionally as I would have expected or wanted. I found the singing while flag-raising one of the most emotional parts but I think I really should have found certain deaths more of a punch to the gut than they were. Some seemed quite cursory. The photographs and captions at the end were very poignant and I did love how these were used.

For me, the payoff near the end of the film (the final half-hour) came late in the day. I appreciated the way it showed how being perceived as a collaborator could happen and the results. However, for me, this film felt a bit too long and dull in the middle act and too short in the final. I was left with a feeling of wanting more of some things and less of others. It also had a curious lack of emotional impact in some parts where that could and should have happened.

Overall then, an informative and well-made film which shows the civilian side well but that could have done more with the military aspects and packed a far bigger emotional punch.


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