The scenes that sting and linger this uncommonly thoughtful and engrossing war drama are not its scenes of combat. They're of efforts to stave off combat, of politicians and royalty trying to work out a deal to maintain neutrality, of parliaments dissolving and the radio blaring the news to the people that today is the first day of fascism. That pacifistic urgency thrums through the scenes of more traditional battlefield tension, too. Soldiers, heartbreakingly young, peer into the night at the faint outline of an invading force, waiting for the order to fire -- and maybe hoping that it doesn't come, that the defenders' inevitable defeat might at least be bloodless.
It's April 1940, and the Germans are seizing Norway even as they insist they maintain the facade of negotiations between the two nations. The German ambassador (Karl Markovics) endeavors to find a way for Norway to surrender with honor, allowing King Haakon VII (Jesper Christensen) to maintain his largely ceremonial sovereignty. But before he can arrange that, the detestable Vidkun Quisling, head of Norway's fascist party, announced himself as the new prime minister, banking on Hitler's support. Quisling never appears in The King's Choice; instead, the film follows, over a three-day period, the ambassador's efforts to deliver Norway to the Fuhrer without bloodshed. The king, meanwhile, finds himself without a government and suddenly expected to wield power. His choice: Trust the ambassador or send the young men of his proudly neutral country out to die. The film is handsomely mounted, traditional in its scenecraft, superbly acted, and much less ham-handed than you might expect from a historical drama about a great man's great moment.
Erik PoppeJesper Christensen, Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Tuva Novotny, Sofie Falkgård, Ingrid Ross Raftemo, Magnus Ketilsson Dobbe, Lage Kongsrud, Karl MarkovicsHarald Rosenløw Eeg, Jan Trygve RøynelandFinn Gjerdrum, Stein B. KvaeSamuel Goldwyn Films