Land of Mine (Under Sandet) 3.0 stars

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Synopsis

Writer-director Martin Zandlivet’s terse, tense, and terrific post-WWII film establishes two of its three strengths immediately. First, star Roland Møller as Danish sergeant Carl Rasmussen, his eyes radiating barely controlled emotion from their deep and hooded recesses as he drives his Jeep alongside a column of defeated German soldiers. Second, its theme of coming to grips with the enemy’s humanity after years spent suffering his depredations and seeking his violent destruction. Rasmussen spots a trudging German clutching a Danish flag, and after seizing it and berating the wretch, he beats him savagely. The sergeant’s assignment is to oversee a detail of German prisoners as they work to clear a section of Denmark’s west coast of 45,000 German land mines. (It’s tempting to curse the director as he brings his camera in close on a shaking hand as it lifts a sand-crusted detonator free with a sickening jerk. How can you look? How can you look away?) The complication: the prisoners are barely more than children — the painfully young recruits heaved up during the Third Reich’s death spasms. They’re brave, resigned, and even hopeful, but their youth is inescapable, and Rasmussen can’t help noticing that when they’re hurt, they call out for Mom. The strain is terrible, and even respites are haunted by the explosive remnants of a war that has ended but isn’t anywhere close to being over.

Matthew Lickona

Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Rated: R

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