Fisherman Erik Toresen (Paul Muni) has lived in the peaceful Norwegian fishing village for many years, raising his daughter Solveig (Ann Carter) by himself having been widowed. But everything changes when the Nazi's invade and take over the village, teaching the children in school propaganda whilst they take what they like. With no one having any really experience in the village the only defence these people have is anger. That is until a senior member of the village is tortured and Erik just can't sit by and starts training the villagers in how to fight. But his leadership doesn't go unnoticed and along with a handful of others escapes to Britain where they end up assisting the British army in fighting the enemy.
I have sat here for the best part of half an hour looking for the right words to start this review of "Commandos Strike at Dawn" with and to be frank I am still looking for the right words. I suppose my problem comes from "Commandos Strike at Dawn" coming across as more than just another war effort/ propaganda movie with some beautiful camera work and performances yet the story it tells is one which is now so familiar that it doesn't blow you away like you feel it should do.
That storyline focuses on fisherman Erik Toresen, a typical peace loving Norwegian who after witnessing what the Nazis do to his village and those who lives there makes the stand to secretly fight against them with the aid of others. As I said it is now a familiar storyline right down to Erik's escape to Britain where he ends up working with the army and Navy, telling them what he knows. But whilst familiar it has both energy and mystery to make it entertaining and it also has some softer moments of more personal drama as we see Erik with his daughter as well as his friendship with Judith Bowen the daughter of a British Admiral. It makes for a nicely rounded movie which being a propaganda movie doesn't focus too heavily on anything gritty or dark.
What it means is that "Commandos Strike at Dawn" relies heavily on Paul Muni to deliver an effective performance and he does by making Erik likeable and pragmatic. Muni manages to make his character so many things; the patriotic hero who is happy to fight despite having been raised to be peaceful whilst restrained in showing his emotion when it comes to not only the propaganda his daughter is taught in school but towards others. On the subject of others "Commandos Strike at Dawn" not only benefits from having Anna Lee but also the delightful Lillian Gish in the cast.
What this all boils down to is that "Commandos Strike at Dawn" is an effective WWII drama about a man and the Norwegian Resistance. It is by no means the most memorable of movies but it is certainly entertaining.