Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Peter Franzén, Irina Björklund, Kari Heiskanen, Taisto Reimaluoto, Kari Väänänen
Director: Olli Saarela
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Studio: Vanguard Cinema Release Date: 03/30/2004 Run time: 123 minutes Rating: Nr
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All Quiet on the Karelian Front
R. A Forczyk | Laurel, MD USA | 09/08/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"It is amazing that tiny Finland, certainly one of the smaller participants in the Second World War, has released two major films in the 12 years about its role in that conflict. Pekka Parikka's 1990 film, The Winter War, depicted the tenacious defense of a Finnish infantry platoon in the 1939-1940 Russo-Finnish War. In a way, that film is a prequel to Olli Saarela's 2002 Ambush, which is set in the 1941 "Continuation War." Both films are based on novels by Antti Tuuri and both films follow small groups of Finnish soldiers engaged against the hated Russian foe. The Winter War was filmed with a bigger budget and more extras, but both films are similar in their perspectives. Overall, Ambush is an average war film, although the circumstances make it rather unique: it is the only film depicting the early months of the War in the East, albeit on one of its backwater fronts. Ambush follows the typical war film conceit: the small unit drama. The unit in question is a 14-man bicycle "platoon" from the 2nd Finnish Light Infantry Regiment, 5th Division on the Karelian Front. The unit is commanded by young Lieutenant Eero Perkola (Peter Franzen) and the time period is July-August 1941. One of the major problems with this film, more noticeable than in the earlier Winter War, is the failure to address the "big picture." Unlike the Winter War, in Ambush the Finns are allied with Adolph Hitler's Germany - a key fact that is never mentioned. Furthermore, the strategic significance of the Finnish Karelian Front - to cut the rail lines to Murmansk - is also not mentioned. Had the Finnish offensive succeeded, much of the Anglo-American "Lend Lease" aid to the USSR would have been blocked. Without these important background facts, the military rationale depicted on film seems pretty flimsy - almost based merely on the whims of the moody lieutenant. The characters in the platoon are the stock "grunt" types: the psycho with steel-rimmed glasses who likes to kill; the religious guy; the young, clumsy guy; the stolid corporal, etc. As usual, several characters are always arguing or threatening to kill each other (not too likely in a small unit behind enemy lines). The only unusual characters are a father and son serving in the same unit, which successfully illustrates the meaning of "total mobilization" for a tiny country. Of course, the other major character in the film is Lieutenant Perkola's fiancée, a female auxiliary, who is MIA early in the film. This lost-love emphasis drives the film over the edge into a heavily personalized view of the war, wherein LT Perkola is tormented by not knowing her fate. While this plot-device will make the film more interesting for civilian audiences, it tends to suck the life out of both the film and the main character. Indeed, Perkola has very little to say after the first 30 minutes into the film, and this is certainly not a case study in small unit leadership. As for the Russians, we see very little of them, except for brief skirmishes with a squad-size unit of Russian border guard remnants. Whereas The Winter War featured scenes with thousands of Russian infantry charging across the snow and massive artillery bombardments, Ambush depicts conflict on a very-low density front with a low budget. The most unique aspects of Ambush focus on the dynamics of bicycle-mounted light infantry moving long distances through the birch forests and scattered lakes of the Karelian wilderness. Both the Finns and Soviets had only about one division in this 100-kilometer wide sector and there is a spooky quality of seeing troops moving through such an uninhabited area. Ostensibly, Perkola's platoon is assigned an area reconnaissance mission on the wide-open flanks of its parent division, which is advancing into Karelia. While the Finns were certainly required to use economy of force in these wide-open areas, the idea that 14 men, with no radio or heavy weapons, could screen the flank of a 15,000-man division is pretty absurd. Perkola keeps pushing his unit further and further into Karelia and in real life this tiny unit would have been annihilated. Amazingly, their Russian opponents never think to use sniping to pick-off Perkola's men and continually allow them to cross obstacles without interference. Indeed, the Russians are just plain stupid in this movie. In terms of cinematography, Perkola's troops move across some really beautiful scenery, unlike the drab trenches of The Winter War. Essentially, this film is more a personalized look at war, love and loss, rather than a combat drama. Principally, the director seems to have little understanding of tactics, weapons and logistics. The idea that anyone would attempt to cross a defended bridge with bicycles is ridiculous, and this small unit seems to have little concept of security (lighting bonfires at night) or self-preservation. Director Saarela seems unaware just how much damage a machinegun can inflict upon the human body: one character is riddled by 6-10 rounds, and then we see him in the hospital later and he seems like he only has a sprained wrist. Saarela also seems unaware that automatic weapons need reloading (Perkola "fires" about 200 rounds without ever changing drums) or that light machine guns must change barrels after long bursts. Indeed, a small light infantry unit like this is unlikely to carry much in the way of supplies and the only resupply that they receive in the course of the film is an armload of bread. The final action, in which the remaining ten Finns attack into the rear of a dug-in Soviet infantry company, is just absurd. Despite the film's tactical problems, Ambush is still an interesting look at the Second World War from the Axis perspective."
... Hardly a typical war film
Matt Berenger | Alexandria, VA United States | 03/26/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this movie at the European Film Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The film is excellent and is hardly just another war film like Hamburger Hill, Platoon, etc. You will get caught up in the lives of the soldiers who travel on bicycles through the Finnish woodland experiencing events such as booby traps and ambushes. In addition, you'll appreciate the tender love story that's woven into the storyline. It's a relief to know this movie is coming to the United States in the DVD format ... it deserves to be seen!"
Brent L. Snodgrass | Knoxville, TN United States | 07/18/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As was stated above this is based on the true story of a group of Finnish soldiers during the 1941-44 fighting against the Soviet Union. I feel this movie is as good as the more famous "Winter War". While one can nit-pick on the weapons used in parts of the film I think this takes nothing from the overall production. This is one great film and a must see if this area of the world interests you."
A solid movie about a little studied aspect of WWII.
R. Wood | Alexandria, VA USA | 08/05/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Though not the greatest war movie ever made, "Ambush" is an engaging and entertaining examination of a little studied aspect of WWII -- the conflict between Finland and the USSR. Set after the "Winter War" of 1939-1940 (in which the USSR invaded Finland, though at a tremendous price) "Ambush" tells the story of a young lieutenant and his bicycle company. More than an action film, "Ambush" focuses on the human side of the conflict. It does this effectively, but not as well as perhaps might have been done. In all fairness, this may be due to the language barrier. "Ambush" is subtitled, but I fear the subtitles may not adequately convey the emotions involved. Overall, a decent war movie that's definitely worth renting (if not buying [on sale or used])."