Taking place after the surrender of Germany in May 1945, 14 young boys drafted during the final days of the war, reminiscent of Bernhard Wicki’s The Bridge (1959), are tasked with disarming 45,000 mines hidden under the beaches of Denmark before they can be sent home. A simple premise based on actual events during the aftermath of World War 2, makes for one of the most powerfully cinematic and skull rattlingly suspenseful movies I have ever seen.
With almost no score and precisely careful attention to sound design, you are constantly hoping for the best yet anticipating the worst as you watch these boys slowly crawl across the beach, prodding at the sand with metal pokers, hoping each mine will bring them one step closer to home. However, each audible clunk under the sand also spells potential disaster as the boys nervously disarm each mine. The tiniest shake of a hand or sound of metal is enough to get your heart racing and stopping all at once. In addition to the fact that the mere concept of an entire patch of land being filled with hidden mines keeps you on edge throughout the film even when the boys are far away from the danger zone.
The film is a harsh coming of age of tale as we see the youth and innocence of their characters crumble under stress, malnourishment, and terrified madness. All of which is increased tenfold by their Danish sergeant who harshly oversees their task and brutally reminds them that German lives are now meaningless. Despite the difficulty in remembering each and every name and face, you still share in their fears and hopes as they forcibly grow through the nightmarish ordeal. Whether or not they all succeed in their task can only be seen for yourself.
Land of Mine is not only one of the best movies of 2016 I’ve seen but is also one of the scariest movies of all time. With pinpoint cinematography capturing the intensity of the boys’ fears and sound design that keeps your heart on edge and your hands nervously over your ears, Land of Mine is truly terrifying in its execution and it will be an awful surprise if it doesn’t win Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars this year.