Tuesday, March 13, 2012

REVIEW: Norwegian Ninja

Norwegian Ninja
Director: Thomas Cappelen Malling
Year 2010
Norwegian Ninja is a dead-pan serious spoof film that combines farcical documentary style footage with real news clips from the Cold War era to create a cinematic experience that is like no other. Taking inspiration from historical events, the filmmakers have taken the liberty to contrive a highly amusing concept that is both entertaining and intriguing thanks to their attention to detail and their retro effects that give off a nostalgic style to the production.
Following the true events of Commander Arne Treholt’s traitorous turn in 1984, the film fictitiously delves into the behind the scene moments of his fall from grace, revealing that he was the leader of an elite group of Norwegian protectors called Ninja Force. Stationed in a secluded location, Arne and his ninjas do everything they can in protecting the Norwegian people, even if that means Treholt’s name must be dragged through the mud in order to keep the unsuspecting masses safe. Full of outrageous moments and unparalleled absurdity, Norwegian Ninja is an experience like no other. Join us. Be a ninja!

Mads Ousdal plays the role of Commander Arne Treholt, utilizing a spiritual and philosophical mind set when portraying the larger than life character that it makes him come off as a god among men. Think Chuck Norris, but the Norwegian version. I don’t know much about Norwegian history, or if Treholt was anything like the way Ousdal represents him here in this fictional retelling of his most infamous days, but damn is this ridiculous character entertaining as hell. This guy is a real show stopper, able to appear and disappear in a puff of smoke in seconds while at the same time being able to lyrically throw out some moral lessons to his team of ninjas like some kind of divine poet. He is the master of the way of the ninja, and Ousdal plays him to perfection. His performance is as serious as a heart attack and through this stern method, Ousdal is able to deliver a character that fully blends in with his film’s cinematic world, making you believe that this outrageous character does truly exist out there somewhere. This simple fact is what makes the character of Treholt so hilarious and outstanding.
The very idea of creating a film based off real life events is an intriguing one, but when you bend the truth into absurdity as the filmmakers have done with Norwegian Ninja, you end up generating a movie world that is so outrageous that it can’t fail to entertain. I understand that a good amount of people in the States will have no knowledge of Arne Treholt and the details that led to his arrest in 1984, hell I only have a small clue after doing a little research of my own, but I think after people realize that this is a what-if kind of story, then I think they will get more out of it in the end. For people well versed in Norwegian history or for Norwegians themselves that have lived through these events, they should get a real kick out of this wacky alternative history lesson.

Aside from the concept of twisting the facts of history, the film also has a great deal of production assets that it fervently flaunts at every single opportunity. Taking many of the techniques that were in style at the time, the filmmakers chose to go the retro route and mimic many of the visual cues that made this era so interesting and distinct. Miniatures are abound in this flick, making for a particular groovy aesthetic that helps sell the unbelievable theory that Arne Treholt led a group of patriotic ninjas under the blessing of the king and unbeknown to all. Every single one of these miniature shots look exactly that, miniature, but that is the point. The hokey appearances of the effects are meant to place us back in time, when production values were substantially less and hand crafted models were the bees knees. I love this style of filmmaking and the crew did a wonderful job in recreating that nostalgic vibe.
There is also a very lush overall visual tone to the film that I really dug. Most scenes are bathed in particularly chosen primary colors, making the scenes pop out while setting a specific tone that really makes you take notice. Nostalgia aside, the filmmakers inject a good amount of modern elements to the film, giving the production a hybrid appearance that turns out to be fairly pleasing on the eye. With its sleek production designs and retro inspired atmosphere, the movie feels like a love letter to a bygone era of filmmaking that always seemed to deliver the goods on hard and true entertainment. The combinations of alternating from real life news broadcasts, to documentary style shots, and then to traditional filmic moments, provides a jumbled mess that in the end surprisingly melds together into one truly engaging cinematic experience. I tip my hat to the filmmakers in their ingenuity and bravery for going ahead with this project. It really is a unique combo that when watched fully, makes for a rather complete and satisfying package.

Norwegian Ninja is an interesting film that, in all rights, shouldn’t have worked as well as it did, but miraculously it ends up coming out on top. The bold decision to tell a story that is counter to the facts and to show it in a tongue and cheek kind of way is masterful. What makes it even more enjoyable is that it is acted out in such a serious manner that you can’t help but smile along with the absurdity. Mads Ousdal as the jack of all trades Arne Treholt is a joy to see on screen, making me wish that I could spend a little more time with this character and see what other crazy antics he gets into. Poof he’s gone!
With a solid production design and a visually engaging structure, the film is not only mentally stimulating but it’s also a feast for the eyes. Carefully replicated to emit nostalgic memories, Norwegian Ninja is an obscurity that fully follows through with what you would imagine when hearing the word Ninja and Norwegian placed side by side. The film is simply absurd and that’s exactly what I wanted to get from it. If you love Norwegians and you love ninjas, then why not give the delectable combo a try. You might just end up liking it. As for me, I say…..

Hey, I can see my ninja house from here!

Arne Treholt demands you join him. Be a ninja!

Your turtle neck looks stupid as shit.

What goes on in the mind of a master ninja? The world may never know.

Here come the ninjas!

Ready. Set. Ninja!

This little piggy went wee wee wee, all the way home.

Arne standing in his b-boy ninja stance.

Sweet computer dude!

Sometimes when ninjas touch.... the honesty's too much.

Arne takes some time to pray to his ninja gods.

You can put your clothes back on sir.
I never asked you to take them off in the first place.

It's the uncomfortable ninja stare down.

I hear you and your dirty sex noises. Don't ever call me again!

Looks like someone got left Home Alone again. KEVIN!

So do you have a ruler big enough for this!

Damn you Arne you beautiful bastard!

Smiles all around.

No comments:

Post a Comment