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Poster of The Unknown Soldier (2017)

A film adaptation of Väinö Linna's best selling novel The Unknown Soldier (1954) and the novel's unedited manuscript version, Sotaromaani.

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The Unknown Soldier (2017)

a Elokuvaosakeyhtiö Suomi 2017, Kvikmyndafélag Íslands and Scope Pictures Production in Finland, Belgium and Iceland

STARS Eero Aho Johannes Holopainen Jussi Vatanen Aku Hirviniemi Hannes Suominen Arttu Kapulainen Paula Vesala Samuel Vauramo Joonas Saartamo Juho Milonoff Andrei Alen Matti Ristinen Diana Pozharskaya Max Ovaska Kimi Vilkkula

Drama | War

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Review

Louhimies has been centrally involved, for example, as a director in nearly 20 different Finnish TV series and movie productions during the 2000s. His career has been versatile and a success in the contemporary movie scene of Finland. In addition, his works have gained at least a moderate cash-flow in cinemas throughout his career. It is clear that in some point there is going to be a total flop in his creations. It is so sad that this happened with The Unknown Soldier (2017).

The main problem of the movie is that it is maybe too traditional and follows the original text of the Väinö Linna's book too strictly. Louhimies does not usually work through scripts or text; instead he relies on improvisation. In the movie, this causes that dialogue parts are poor and they feel and taste like a piece of Finnish writing paper. The acting and dialogue are presumably intended to be serious considering the themes of the movie, but this goes horribly wrong.

Serious and shocking scenes seem simply amusing and there is no way to change this feeling. I wondered that am I really watching the final version of the movie or am I watching the gag reel or B/C takes of the production. Parts of the movie reveal that they had completed scenes in many parts and with numerous re-takes. Maybe to maximize perfection or make it even better re-take after re-take? Hard to say what had been the point of endless re-takes. In the public and in the interviews, the film crew revealed that numerous dialogue parts had been play backed and re-recorded in the studio during post-production. In short: acting was poor and dialogue lame till the end.

Another main problem with the movie is that it is not very plausible or authentic in general. In the original text, the main character posse consists of men who are from different parts of the country. This means that they talk in a rather different way and with their personal, unique dialects. In Finland, people talk very differently depending on from which part of the country you have grown up. In the movie, there is a lot of try to imitate and create soldiers' dialects as original and truthful as possible. The result is somewhere between awkward and shared sense of shame.

On the screen, everything fails miserably. It is impossible to create a character to talk Turku region's dialect with and actor, for example, with natural Helsinki region's accent. This is a very hard task for any actor anywhere because dialects are innate, it is not possible to change one's dialect. But I understand that the production crew and dialect consultants, experts etc. tried their best and that's all. Secondly, the military commands and orders shouted by the actors on the barracks scene sound miserably and 100% not plausible. They are far from the reality. On the other hand, nearly no one of the actors had took part in the Finnish military service.

Moreover, nearly all of the Finnish movie/TV series actors are grown up in the Helsinki area ie. they talk like people talk there and that is why it is hard to get famous actors with authentic and original dialects. This cold fact of the dialects is embarrassingly coming at you right from the start of the movie and there is no way to get rid of it. Luckily, some of the most annoying and lamest dialect characters die soon and they do not bother you till the credits.

Minor problems of the movie are narration and pacing. Movie follows rather strictly the original text of the book. I was expecting that Louhimies would have taken some more artistic liberties and given more power to his own, personal interpretation of the book. It is hard to say whether he had even read the actual book or not. I assume that maybe he had read it or at least a part of it. For some reason, the pacing of the story in the movie is draggy and slow. I wanted more fast-paced narration. Secondly, the narration and script are simply boring – or they are presented in a rather dull way. Everything happens so slowly. I was disappointed because his other works are maybe clearly more straightforward and of course I assumed that his style has not changed.

Action scenes are mediocre: they are short and feel that they are just cut from somewhere else where they actually belonged. It is odd and annoying that pacing bounces from the action scenes till the scenes where the home front is depicted. Maybe this was not director's decision to make it that way, but some of the producers or some other authority forced him to do it so in the final version.

The post-production crew and technicians have really put an effort (and money!) on explosions. However, the explosions and other special fx are still far from the world class movies. They are just mediocre and rather daunting. Soundtrack is original and nicely mixed. On the contrary, gun sounds and ambient effects sound crappy. Maybe all of the money was spent on explosions and fancy make-up gear? Namely, actors' make-up, apparel, rank insignia, hair styles, clothes, armory, weapon equipment are cool, they seem authentic and genuine. Well done! Maybe I will give the movie a new chance when they hopefully show it on television on 6.12.2017. That is the day when Finland's independence gains its glorious 100th anniversary.