The 12th Man (film)

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The 12th Man
The 12th Man (film).jpg
Directed byHarald Zwart
Produced by
  • Veslemøy Ruud Zwart
  • Espen Horn
  • Aage Aaberge
Written byPetter Skavlan [no] (credited as Alex Boe)[1]
Based on
Jan Baalsrud and Those Who Saved Him
  • Tore Haug
  • Astrid Karlsen Scott
Music byChristophe Beck
CinematographyGeir Hartly Andreassen
Edited byJens Christian Fodstad
Distributed byIFC Midnight
Release date
  • 25 December 2017 (2017-12-25)
Running time
135 minutes
Budget64 million Norwegian krone
Box office$9.6 million (Norway)[2]

The 12th Man (Norwegian: Den 12. mann) is a 2017 Norwegian historical drama directed by Harald Zwart. Thomas Gullestad stars as the protagonist Jan Baalsrud, who escapes from occupying Nazi Germans in Rebbenesøya, via Lyngen Fjord and Manndalen, to neutral Sweden in the spring of 1943.

The film, which is based on historical events, was adapted from the book Jan Baalsrud and Those Who Saved Him (2001), written by Tore Haug and Astrid Karlsen Scott.[3] Producer Veslemoey Ruud Zwart secured the film rights for this book in 2004.

The book and its film adaptation have the same protagonist as Arne Skouen's Oscar-nominated film Nine Lives (1957), in which Baalsrud's courage and stamina were also emphasized. Jan Baalsrud's story was also told in We Die Alone by David Howarth.

Unlike the book on which it is based, The 12th Man emphasizes the efforts of those who helped Baalsrud escape, which is in line with Baalsrud's own statements about the local population's courage. The plot also details the pursuit of Baalsrud from the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) leadership's perspective, depicting the escape as a cat-and-mouse game between Sturmbannführer Kurt Stage and Baalsrud.

According to German documents, the Nazis believed that the resistance group had perished in a blast. There are no reports indicating that the Germans knew to hunt for Baalsrud, who claims that he killed two German soldiers in the fight.[4]


The 12th Man tells the dramatic story of Jan Baalsrud's escape from the Nazis during the Second World War.

In Shetland, 12 Norwegian resistance fighters board a fishing boat with eight tons of TNT and cross the North Sea as part of Operation Martin with a plan to sabotage German military facilities. The mission gets into trouble soon after reaching Norway, where their local contact is long dead and their identity is compromised by a German sympathiser, who informs the Germans about their arrival.

A German warship locates the fishing boat and opens fire. The resistance fighters ignite the TNT and jump into the water near the fjord. Eleven of the fighters are rounded up by the Germans on the beach. One is shot on the spot and ten are captured. Two die from torture while being interrogated, the other captive fighters are executed on Tromsøya, after the German officers interrogate and torture them about their mission.

The 12th resistance fighter, Jan Baalsrud, manages to escape by hiding and swimming across the fjord, in sub-zero temperatures. He receives assistance from locals who risk their lives to help. He undergoes severe physical trials of endurance and hardship. Baalsrud is helped to escape from Rebbenesøya to Sweden, via Lyngenhalvøya and Manndalen.[5]


In March 2004, producer Veslemøy Ruud Zwart secured the film rights to the book Jan Baalsrud and Those Who Saved Him.[6] Filming began by April 2016.[7]

Thomas Gullestad went on a diet to play the lead role.[8]



On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 86%, based on 21 reviews with an average rating of 6.52/10.[9] Metacritic gives the film a weighted average score of 70 out of 100, based on ten critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[10]

Aftenposten observes that the film emphasizes Baalsrud's helpers and the struggle of the Resistance in a completely different way than in Arne Skouen's film Nine Lives (1957); The 12th Man offers a nuance to the Baalsrud legend.[11]

Morten Ståle Nilsen, in Verdens Gang, refers to The 12th Man as "a solid, but predictable film". While complimenting the amazing scenery of Norway, VS said its magnificent nature couldn't save the film from being monotonous, overlong, and too focused on suffering.[12]

Nicolai Berg Hansson, from Film Magasinet, said the film was successful as an action movie, but if one is to criticize it for something, "it may feel a bit… hollow. It might have said much more about human psychology, survival instinct and trauma".[13]

Sigurd Vik, from P3's Film Police, believed the film was playing with clichés, especially in the depiction of the SS officer Kurt Stage. The review complimented director Zwart's influence of Nils Gaup, "when combining magnificent coastal and mountain scenery, and the insolence of the wilderness with dense and tough action sequences". The review also said that turning a serious Norwegian Resistance struggle into an action film works well.[14]


  1. ^ Dennis Harvey (2018-05-02). "Film Review: 'The 12th Man'". Variety.
  2. ^ "Movies: The 12th Man". Box Office Mojo.
  3. ^ Haug, Tore; Astrid Karlsen Scott (2001). Jan Baalsrud and Those Who Saved Him. ISBN 9788205297524.
  4. ^ Kvam, Ragnar Jr. (2 January 2018). "Tyskerne jaktet ikke på Jan Baalsrud" [The Germans did not hunt Jan Baalsrud]. Aftenposten. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  5. ^ "Incredibly, the jaw-dropping scenes in this vivid WWII survivalist film are true". Times of Israel. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  6. ^ Fredriksen, Rune (1 March 2006). "Zwart vil lage 'Ni Liv' på nytt" [Zwart will create 'Nine Lives' again]. NRK. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  7. ^ Selås, Jon (20 April 2016). "Magert helvete for Thomas "Finger'n" Gullestad under innspilling av "Den 12. mann"" [Magert Hell for Thomas "Finger'n" Gold City while recording "The 12th Man"]. Verdens Gang. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  8. ^ Alnes, Espen (2016-02-22). "Han skal spele Jan Baalsrud". NRK (in Norwegian Nynorsk). Retrieved 2018-12-28. Thomas Gullestad må ned 15 kilo før han skal spele Jan Baalsrud på film.
  9. ^ "The 12th Man (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  10. ^ "The 12th Man Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  11. ^ Lismoen, Kjetil (13 December 2017). ""Den 12. mann": En nyansering av Baalsrud-legenden" [The 12th Man – A Gradation of Baalsrud legend]. Aftenposten (in Norwegian). Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  12. ^ Nilsen, Morten Ståle (13 December 2017). "Filmanmeldelse "Den 12. mann": Kald krig" [The 12th Man: Cold War]. Verdens Gang (in Norwegian). Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  13. ^ Hansson, Nicolai Berg (14 December 2017). "Den 12. mann" [The 12th Man]. Film Magasinet (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on 31 December 2017. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  14. ^ Vik, Sigurd (13 December 2017). "Den 12. mann" [The 12th Man]. Filmpolitet (in Norwegian). NRK P3. Retrieved 30 December 2017.

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