A saga of Norway’s entry into World War II that probably plays more stirringly in the nation where it is set, “The King’s Choice” dramatizes a celebrated moment in the country’s constitutional monarchy, when King Haakon VII (Jesper Christensen) refused to surrender to the Nazis’ invasion.
Apart from a great deal of hand-held, wide-screen camera work that might be thought of as Lars von Trier-o-Vision, the movie, directed by Erik Poppe, proceeds in the manner of any number of war epics of the 1960s, sluggishly charting how the ostensibly ceremonial king acquired real negotiating power during a crisis — and had the resolve to lead his country into war.
Checking off dates and locations onscreen, and filling its dialogue with undigested exposition, the movie traces the parallel journeys of the king, who evacuates Oslo with the royal family in the face of the attack, and the German envoy, Curt Bräuer (Karl Markovics), who, in the film’s telling, is authorized by Hitler to bypass the cabinet and negotiate directly with the king.
Bräuer is alone among the German characters in his affection for neutral Norway and recognizes that Norwegians aren’t sympathetic to Germany’s desire for iron ore and a strategic coastline, or its violently proffered promise of protection from a hypothetical British invasion.
“The King’s Choice” maintains a sense of intrigue when it sticks to the king’s dealings with the government, but the movie drags when it moves outside of back rooms and deviates from setting up the Bräuer-Haakon showdown.
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