Epic in scope but personal in detail, Max Manus is a Norwegian war movie that puts many Hollywood blockbusters to shame.

The film is a biopic of the titular Max Manus, an undercover saboteur in Norway during the Second World War. Max and his close circle of friends fought valiantly against the Nazis during the German occupation and while Max was the only one to come out of the war alive, they are all considered heroes in their native land.

A film about Max’s journey took a surprising 65 years to make it to screens, but finally arrived in an intelligent and action packed period piece that set box office records in Norway in 2008. The movie is finally coming to Canadian screens this Friday.

The project was a labour of love for co-directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, who were anxious to make their movie quickly while a few of the historical figures were still alive.

“We were able to talk to war veterans and Max’s widow Tikken, which helped us immensely,” said Sandberg. “The most nervous we ever felt during the entire project was on the day that we screened the film for her. She was just thrilled and said that it took her right back to that time. That was an exciting day because we knew it meant that we had something.”

Filled with huge crowd scenes, battle sequences, and extraordinary period detail, the project required a blockbuster budget to pull off, but the directors were surprisingly able to make the film with a fraction of a Hollywood budget.

“It costs about the same to make a film in Norway as it costs in Hollywood and Max Manus only had a budget of around $10 million. This is why you don’t normally make these kinds of movies in Scandinavia,” joked Ronning.

“The only way we could do it was to shoot in half the time and with 1/10th of the crew that you’d get in America. It’s another kind of filmmaking, but thanks to computer technology we were able to channel a lot of the budget into the post-production and make that epic film that we were dreaming of. I don’t think we could have done it even five or six years ago.”

A critical and box office success wherever it has played, Max Manus is a career highlight for Ronning and Sandberg. The pair are currently being courted by Hollywood studios, which is a long ways away from their humble beginnings in Norway.

“We’ve known each other now for 27 years and started making shorts films on video in elementary school,” recalled Ronning. “We work together very naturally.”