Thursday, September 07, 2023

Gold Run: Norway’s WWII Gold Convoy

In 1940, Norway’s Krone had real value, because they had a gold standard. Of course, that meant the national bank had a lot of gold in its vaults, to back up its currency. When the Germans invaded, stealing that gold was a high priority. Bureaucrats from the central bank and finance ministry worked with the military to deliver Norway’s gold to the Allies for safe keeping. They are losing the battle, but the Norwegians complete their heroic mission in Hallvard Braein’s Gold Run, which opens tomorrow in New York.

Fredrik Haslund is a boring mid-level political appointee, but that is why his boss trusts him. Unfortunately, that means he gets the call when it is time to ferry Norway’s gold reserves to a British destroyer waiting not so patiently along the coast. The minister knows Haslund will meticulously account for each and every gold bar. That is also why he so annoys Maj. Bjorn Sunde, the crusty commander of his military escort, which includes a celebrity, former communist poet Nordahl Grieg. (To his credit, Grieg broke with Stalin and the Party when they signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact). At least Haslund’s activist sister, Nini, a veteran of the Spanish Civil War, will lend her skills as a scout and English translator to his make-shift convoy.

Haslund is not an obvious hero, but Ingvar Berge from the finance ministry inspires even less confidence. However, he will be reluctantly paired up with Odd Henry, a grizzled truck driver, who is man enough for the both of them. They will all have to get their acts together and work as a team, because Major Otto Stoltmann is hot on their trail.

Gold Run
is a solidly respectable war drama that sometimes feels more like the streaming/TV movie that it started its life as in Scandinavia, representing Viaplay’s first original film. It is a great story, especially when it shows two undeniably heroic professions, soldiers and economists, working together at a time of national emergency. However, most characters are just deep enough to give them an internal crisis to exploit during critical turning points.

Although the battery of three screenwriters never really delve into Grieg’s politics (he was an honest anti-fascist, instead of a Party stooge), the depiction of the national bard is still far from hagiography. He often appears somewhat full of himself, but his “first reading” of his classic wartime poem is pretty stirring stuff.

Even though Haslund was a Labor Party bureaucrat, Jon Oigarden’s portrayal makes him look appealingly bourgeoisie. You know, technocratic, workaholic, and family-oriented. Sven Nordin is charismatically gruff, in a Rutger Hauer-Russell Crowe kind of way, as old Odd Henry (Odd is a Scandinavian name, as well as a not completely inapt adjective). However, Eivind Sander’s kneejerk crotchetiness as Maj. Sunde is annoying and unfair to Norwegian officers of his generation, who arguably put up a decent fight, considering how utterly Germany overran Norway.

Gold Run really shows how the gold convoy really was a wild, one-darned-thing-after-another ride. It is always rewarding to see average people rise up to thwart a malignant force. Braein plays up that angle nicely. Recommended for fans of WWII films, Gold Run opens tomorrow (9/8) at the Quad.