It’s mostly coincidental that I should happen across Norwegian Ninja (2010) right after rewatching Breach. From an incisive character portrait of a notorious American traitor, to a fanciful secret history reimagining the life of a notorious Norwegian traitor? What are the odds? You’d think I watch spy movies or something.
The subject of this amusing fictional mash-up is the very real Arne Treholt, a Norwegian politician convicted of high treason in the 1980s for selling secrets to the KGB. The movie, uh, spins his case. Treholt (Mads Ousdal) is recast as the secret commander of a Norwegian ninja squad, based on an island off the coast and bravely patrolling the fjords. His mission: protect the country from the Russian submarine menace. But they actually have a more sinister enemy: Stay Behind, a CIA-funded international terrorist organization with the mission of exacerbating the Cold War by committing atrocities against western countries and blaming the Russians. In this alternate reality, Treholt is not a traitor to western democracy, but a heroic behind-the-scenes combatant against right-wing tyranny: a kind of Scandinavian Harry Tuttle.
Yes, there is a political position at the core of this weird little satire, but I didn’t feel it overpowered the zany, inventive tone. Not exactly laugh-out-loud funny, the film it nonetheless appealingly bizarre, a weird mix of cinematic genres from the conventional (spies, martial arts, fantasy) to the less so (mockumentary, found footage). For me it was a mildly enjoyable hybrid of a boatload of things I’m interested in; for others, I suspect the mileage will vary widely.