Orions Belte a.k.a. Orion’s Belt (1985): Breakdown by Rutledal
Let me start off by telling you that this is a new (and unofficial) series of write-ups where I will be breaking down action movies from my own country of origin, Norway. This series will probably be as frequently updated as the Cuban government since Norwegian action films are not only few and far between, but often hard to come by. I figured that the best way to start this series would be with what is often considered the first, the best and unquestionably is the most successful Norwegian action film of all time: Orion’s Belt.
At a time when the Norwegian movie business was at an almost record low, two friends got tired of all the (shitty) social realistic movies that made up most of the Norwegian movie production at the time. They decided that they wanted to make a counterweight to the American action movies that would actually be seen, and also would serve as a direct criticism of the Norwegian government’s unwillingness to pick a side in the cold war and at the same time not suck. Finding no one but pussies, not a single production company wanted to buy their idea and the government refused to give them any funding due to the subjects dealt with in the movie. Only after 4 years of signature-gaining campaigns and meetings with Parliament did they finally get permission and the money to make their film. They teamed up with one of the few breakaway directors in the Norwegian film business, Ola Solum (who previously had made some action-thrillers aimed towards kids), and gave us this thrilling piece of exciting cold war action.
The movie follows three friends living at Svalbard (a small island in the arctic sea between Russian and America). The trio do all that they can just to keep the wheels turning, anything from freight jobs to giving guided tours of the arctic scenery, and all with their trusty boat, Sandy Hook . During one such trip, where the guys have combined insurance fraud and fencing to make extra cash, they take a detour in order look less suspicious and end up sailing into a storm where their engine gets busted, and they go ashore on an island till the weather clears. Turns out it’s actually more of a Russian transmitter post than an island. A manned illegal Russian transmitter post. That’s when shit gets exciting.
The movie was not only the first Norwegian action film, but also the first Norwegian movie that dared to have ambitions of an international audience. Because of this a British director was brought in to film all the scenes a second time with the actors saying their lines in English. The English version is slightly shorter and contains a few different scenes, and is also surprisingly much worse than the Norwegian version due to the fact that the actor’s horrible English accents stick out like a beam of light in darkness and it takes a lot out of the performances.
With beautiful scenery, one of my all time favourite scores and many exciting action sequences, the movie is pleasing to the eyes, ears and balls. It’s different from the bigger Cold-War era action films like Red Dawn or Iron Eagle, because unlike America, Norway wasn’t Russia’s sworn enemy and hence didn’t want the “Reagan hate communism, Reagan smash communism” approach. Instead it sets our heroes in the middle of a three-way drama between the Russian, American and Norwegian government. When released the movie swept up every award that existed in Norway (because unlike the Oscars they aren’t afraid to nominate action films) and became an instant classic. Today it is still considered a classic and a must in the DVD collection of every Norwegian that doesn’t hate their country. Though I also recommended it to action film enthusiast, of all countries. It might be hard to get a hold of, but it’s worth a look if you want to see a different kind of action movie.
[HOW BAD-ASS ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERS?]
Helge Jordal is Tom (To the right)
One of my favourite actors and our main hero, he is sort of like a Norwegian Charles Bronson. He looks so naturally cool and hard edged that it’s difficult to imagine that he should be anything other than a complete badass, and he isn’t. With Tom, things are done either his way or the highway, but since he is but a pawn in a large political game of chess it usually ends up being the highway.
Sverre Anker Ousdal is Lars (To the left)
The second to main hero shows many badass features when he and Tom fight back to back in a gunfight against the Russians. However, unlike Tom he stops believing that they can win, and [SPOILER] dies without putting up even the least bit of a fight.
Hans Ola Sørlie is Sverre (In the background)
Injured early on when the action begins, he doesn’t get to do much. He defies his injuries to help the others during the gunfight, but not in any particularly badass way and [SPOILER] ends up getting blown to bits in the company of Lars.
[THE BODY COUNT: 07]
Our heroes get 4 combined, 3 by Tom and 1 by Lars. Then there’s the unfortunate dismissals of Lars and Sverre, and the final death is a spoiler that leads to a haunting ending and leaves many unanswered questions.
[MOST SATISFYING DEATH]
During the shootout between our heroes and a Russian helicopter, Tom brings out whatever the hell that thing is (see picture) and shoots the chopper down. The choppa crashes, and even though the explosion happens off-screen due to budget limitations, the three communist deaths are still satisfying.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
Tom gets shirtless once, but it’s while having sex with a woman. So, not even close.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
The most misogynistic thing about the movie is that Eva, Tom’s girlfriend, has less screen time in the Norwegian version than in the English version. The English version tries to make up for the lack of exploitation by showing more tits, but she is still an independent working girl. Sorry, but Norwegian action just isn’t as misogynistic as America’s.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
There are lots of good moments in here. I easily could have gone with the scene in which the guys have to get a bulldozer off the boat and must improvise, or the shootout on Sandy Hook. But I’m giving it to a much smaller moment with much larger impact.
Our heroes have just discovered the Soviet transmitter station and are looking around when Tom finds a thermos. He opens it to discover freshly made coffee, and expresses “Oh shit…!” It is the moment when the heroes realize that they are not alone and everything is turned 180 degrees around. From that moment it becomes a fight for survival, a fight they can’t win. There may be cooler moments in the movie, but not one with nearly as much impact.
I’m actually going to have to give the one-liner to the Norwegian intelligence in charge of keeping a lid on Tom and his knowledge of the Russian’s activities.
“This is a game of chess, and you aren’t even on the board.”
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
During the cold war it didn’t matter who you got tangled up with, you were fucked from start to finish.
[THE CHECKLIST: 11 outta 25]
[ ] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[ ] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[ ] Crotch Attack
[ ] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[X] Heavy Artillery
[ ] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[ ] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[ ] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[ ] Torture Sequence(s)
[X] Unnecessary Sequel [English version]
[ ] Vehicle Chase(s)
[ ] Vigilante Justice
*He gets make-up to look like an Indian so he can blend in at a carnival
Sex with women, booze straight from the bottle; a hard life for the average Norwegian.