Set in German-occupied Norway, this is an embellished account of the remarkable efforts of the Norwegian resistance to sabotage the German development of the atomic bomb. Resistance fighter Knut Straud enlists the reluctant physicist Rolf Pedersen in an effort to destroy the German heavy water production plant near the village of Rjukan in rural Telemark. In the process, Pedersen discovers that his ex-wife Anna and her uncle have also joined the resistance. British commandos dispatched to destroy the plant are killed when their glider hits the mountainside at night. An improvised raid by the resistance ends in the partial destruction of the heavy water canisters, but the contingency plans of Reichskommissar Terboven enable the Germans to resume production quickly. Pedersen wants to recommend to London that the Allies bomb the plant. Straud opposes him because of the potential death toll on Norwegian civilians and a fight ensues. They send in separate recommendations, and the air raid ... Written by
A documentary about the mission called The Real Heroes of Telemark was later made two years shy of forty years after this movie was made. This documentary was apparently made to clear are some of the fictionalization of this movie which portrayed some inaccuracies, variations and differences compared to the events and circumstances of the true World War II Telemark raid. See more »
In the darkroom scene Dr. Rolf Pedersen is about to print a black/white image yet we can see a lot of white light everywhere, therefore the paper will have fogged up long before he starts. A darkroom should only have red light in it. See more »
That is... I must say that is fantastic efficiency!
Don't you ever make the mistake by underrating the Germans. By any means.
By Easter we will not have merely 10000 pounds of heavy water, but 12000 pounds of heavy water.
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Reasonably exciting and enjoyable action/adventure
"The Heroes of Telemark" was one of a number of British war films from the sixties which dealt with relatively small-scale military operations but did so on a more lavish scale than similar films made in the forties and fifties. Similar films included "The Guns of Navarone" and "Where Eagles Dare"; all three, although most of the cast were British, included a major American star. (Kirk Douglas here, Gregory Peck in "The Guns of Navarone" and Clint Eastwood in "Where Eagles Dare").
The other two films mentioned above tell fictitious stories, but this one is based on a true story. It tells of the sabotage by the Norwegian Resistance of the Vemork Norsk Hydro plant, which the Nazis were using to produce heavy water, a substance used in nuclear fission. (Telemark is the name of the Norwegian county in which the plant is situated). Richard Harris, who also appeared in "The Guns of Navarone, stars as Knut Straud, the local resistance leader who leads the saboteurs; Douglas plays Dr Rolf Pedersen, a leading physicist.
Originally Pedersen, although not an active Quisling supporter, is cynical about the activities of the resistance, who he believes achieve little except provoking the Germans to carry out reprisals against innocent civilians. When, however, he realises what Nazis are working on, and what a nuclear bomb would mean in the hands of such a regime, he throws in his lot with the struggle. A complicating factor is that Pedersen's ex-wife Anna is also one of the resistance fighters.
The way in which war films had developed over two decades can be seen by comparing this film with two others about German-occupied Norway. "The Day Will Dawn", made during the war itself, contains very little in the way of action sequences; those in "Above Us the Waves", made during the fifties about the sinking of the "Tirpitz" are weak and unconvincing. "The Heroes of Telemark", by contrast, contains some very impressive action sequences, especially the attack on the plant. Whereas "The Day Will Dawn" and "Above Us the Waves" were studio-bound productions shot in black-and-white, this film is in colour and makes good use of snowy Norwegian locations to create something far more visually attractive.
As is common in adventure war films of this type, the characterisation is not particularly well developed, and relies heavily on the standard "Allies Good, Nazis Bad" formula, although the Germans are not caricatured to the extent that they were in "The Day Will Dawn". The most developed character is Pedersen, who starts off as a cynical, womanising playboy professor but who is quickly won over by Straud's idealism. There is even some humour, as in the scene where Pedersen and Anna manage to escape the attention of the Germans by pretending to be a courting couple.
Although it does not go into the ethical issues it raises in any great depth, and although it could perhaps have increased the tension it generates by some judicious cutting, "The Heroes of Telemark" is a reasonably exciting and enjoyable action/adventure. 6/10
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