World War Two goes North in director Harald Zwart’s remake of 1957’s little-known Nine Lives. The 12th Man follows Jan Baalsrud (Thomas Gullestad), the sole survivor of the unsuccessful Operation Martin Red. He embarks on a trek toward across Norway toward the Swedish border, evading the occupying Germans. Regrettably, a reliance on genre clichés and its glaring derivation prevent it from joining the ranks of the films to which it aspires.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ German police officer is the film’s real driving force. Boasting a brooding intensity and convincing German accent, he’s a loose cannon whose influence is clearly visible on the faces of his subordinates. The unfortunate side effect of Rhys Meyers’ performance is that it rather overshadows Gullestad, who is fully committed but largely ineffective.
The filmmakers, meanwhile, utilise the natural beauty of the Norwegian landscape to good effect; Kon-Tiki cinematographer Geir Hartly Andreassen’s vibrant and colourful vistas allow us to feel – and fear – the wintry landscape as much as Baalsrud does. It’s a shame, then, that The 12th Man seems unaware of its strengths. As the film draws to a close, what initially felt like a fresh take on an overloaded genre reveals itself to be more of the same.