True story: The European Theater of World War II is over, but the west coast of Denmark is still chockablock with lethal land mines. The Danes, rightfully outraged over German occupation, show no mercy to those left behind in their country. Who better to assign the dangerous task of removal to than Nazi prisoners of war? The post-war cleanup is almost as dangerous as battle: Around 2,000 German POWs were tasked with clearing Danish beaches of more than two million mines and nearly half were either killed or maimed in the process.
In writer and director Martin Zandvliet's ("The Outsider," "Applause") Oscar-nominated film, Sgt. Leopold Rasmussen (Roland Møller) is put in charge of a squad of piteous recruits, practically still children and starving to boot. So what begins as hostile authority softens into empathy, hastened by the great risk of his charges blowing themselves up on any given day.
The Danish seaside has never been so dangerous, nor beautiful. DP Camilla Hjelm provides stunning, sunny photography of the dunes in which the misfit troop silently, carefully works to dismantle the bombs. It's a painful, exquisite tension, but not the only source in the story. After some time, even the most squeamish viewer can anticipate when to cover their eyes, and can move on to the more important task of rooting for Rasmussen to keep his promises.
Don't let the unfortunate play on words in the title keep you from this film. (In the original Danish, it's called "Under Sandet,” meaning "under the sand.")