Directed by Erik Poppe
Starring Jesper Chrstensen, Anders Baasmo Christansen, Karl Markovics
Caught by a surprise invasion under the auspices of military aid, King Haakon VII of Norway (Jesper Christensen) must flee with his parliament to safer ground. As the Nazis pursue the fleeing entourage, the King must struggle with a paralyzed government, family discord, and with respecting the limits of his own power, all to attempt to safeguard the future of his country.
Although it feels like a little of the subtlety is lost on audience that did not grow up in the aftermath of this decision, The King’s Choice still provides enough information for all of us to realise its importance. This is a richly appointed period piece that hangs on some of those rather subtle nuances, and enough is kept in translation for even those unfamiliar with the events to understand the import. It manages to convey both the large and the small of these, able to shift focus between an internalised personal conflict to large (and loud) battle sequences handling each with aplomb.
A lot of this rests on the able shoulders of Jesper Christensen (Casino Royale). His portrayal of King Haakon VII’s decision, and the fine line he walks maintaining the power of the monarchy without trampling democratic procedures in a time of crisis nuanced. He strikes the right balance between kindly old uncle, and descendant of a line of monarchs, bringing each one to the fore front as required. As so much of this story relies on the conflict generated by those decisions (heck, it’s right there in the title), Christensen is front and centre for the majority of screen time.
Providing a foil to this, and an insight into the German side of the proceedings is Karl Markovics (The Grand Budapest Hotel) playing a rather Chamberlain-like Nazi envoy. He’s a character built on weaknesses and capitulation, but given life and soul by Markovics. His and Christensen’s scene towards the end provides a dramatic political confrontation that is as enthralling as all the cannon and gunfire.
Although chiefly concerned with the political and the personal, The King’s Choice, does manage to bring the impact of war clearly to the screen. The few sequences dedicated to battle are immaculately staged, playing on the tension of waiting , then punctuating that with brutally loud gunfire. On the whole these sequences may be short, but some of the best handled I’ve seen in a while.
Norway’s submission to the Academy for Best Foreign Film, The King’s Choice is a solid drama with a touch of both the personal and the political.