Ski Patrol is a weird Hollywood B-film recently found by a Finnish film enthusiast and shown on Finnish national TV for the first time today (2013-12-08). This hastily made flick tells its own version of the Finnish Winter War just a few months after the fact.
Ski Patrol is a peculiar mix of right and hilariously wrong. It starts in a village in the Finnish Alps (good luck finding that on any map!) where everyone gathers together in the village inn fully dressed in Middle European national costumes to socialize, to smoke long pipes, and to listen to the village band playing the Finnish national traditional instrument, the kantele. As its inhabitants the village naturally has both an Olympic skier and a Nobel peace prize winner.
All of this, including names like Paavo Luuki and Gustaf Nerkuu, is wrong on so many levels. Still, the people are presented in an empathetic way, so I don't know what to think of it.
There is, though, one surprisingly historically correct piece of information in the film. One of the main female characters is a member of the Lotta Svärd voluntary auxiliary paramilitary organization for women. This is probably the earliest feature film in any country mentioning the organization. How could they get that right when everything else is a bit so-and-so? But I digress.
After the introduction, the war starts soon enough with the full-scale attack of the Soviets against Finland and we get to meet a lot of different basic war-type characters - including the obligatory heroic American volunteer. Actually, the number and qualities of different characters is surprisingly large and good for such a short film, so even though the snow fighting scenes are more for effect than for sense, you actually get to understand a little bit of how the different personalities work. For a film that is only four minutes over an hour long, that's not too bad.
At the end of the day, though, the film falls flat because its story isn't compelling enough and the end plot twist is more than a bit cheesy. Still, for a hastily made job (the premiere was just two months after the end of the Winter War), and considering fact checking was perhaps not too high on the makers' priority list (little-known country and no Wikipedia), Ski Patrol is an interesting bit of curiosity - if not for others, perhaps at least for Finns and people interested in Finland. Don't expect anything to match facts, though.
I'll give this film a solid 3 or 4 for effort. More than that would be stretching it, even though I enjoyed watching it with my 9-year old son.
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