Five months ago, MN Film Arts opened the 28th annual MSPIFF with WWII Norwegian resistance film Max Manus. The film has returned to St. Anthony Main for a two-week run, starting this Friday, hoping to capitalize on its five sellout shows during the festival. The film is the most expensive film ever made in Norway, featuring many locations, and should have no problem finding local audiences coming back for seconds or or who were shut out from buying tickets the first time around.
The cast is led by a terrific Aksel Hennie, portraying the semi-indestructible Max, as he keeps fighting the good fight for Norway against Nazi Germany (1940-1945). At times it’s a bit boggling to keep track of every person who comes in contact with Max, as their characters are barely given any depth or background, other than showing up randomly looking for their next orders. Max Manus is redeemed, though, with quick pacing and stylish editing It’s an entertaining character study with an important Norwegian history lesson to boot.
After Ben Affleck’s first feature as writer/director, Gone Baby Gone, adapted from the Dennis Lehane crime novel, Affleck’s second directorial feature, The Town, also takes place around Boston; it was also adapted from a crime novel, Chuck Hogan’s Prince of Thieves. Affleck recruits another great cast including Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker), Jon Hamm (TV’s Mad Men), Rebecca Hall (The Prestige), and Gossip Girl herself, Blake Lively. The Town is your basic “cops and robbers” crime drama with some nice moments of tension, especially a thrilling scene inside “the Green Monster” at Fenway Park, and the film does build up steam in its final third.
The Town focuses on Doug Macray (Affleck, acting this time), who’s part of a crew who rob banks around Boston and seem to be able to rob these banks with precise ease, spending more time picking out great costumes and disguises than actually casing the joints. When a bank manager (Hall) is taken hostage in the opening moments, Macray promises to “handle” the situation, but falls for her, much to the ire of hothead partner James Coughlin (Renner). Also in hot pursuit is FBI agent Adam Frawley (Hamm), who seems to be keeping a closer eye on Hall rather than the suspects. Clearly, Affleck has the chops behind the camera and has a good eye for his hometown, but the story fails to ignite any sparks that would allow it to transcend the crime genre.
Max Manus still courtesy MN Film Arts