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April 9th

 (218)
6.61 h 32 min2015X-Ray12
In the early morning of April 9th 1940 the Danish army is alerted. The Germans have crossed the border; Denmark is at war against Europe's strongest army. At the Southern border the Danish homeguard are ordered out to hold back the forces until the Danish reinforcements can be mobilised.

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Supporting actors
Martin GreisJoachim FjelstrupJannik LorenzenElliot Crosset HoveMikkel BentzenAri AlexanderMathias LundkvistSebastian Bull Sarning
Producers
Tobias LindholmRene Ezra
Studio
STUDIOCANAL Ltd
Content advisory
Smokingviolence
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Stream instantly Details
Format
Prime Video (streaming online video)
Devices
Available to watch on supported devices

Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

218 global ratings

  1. 64% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 21% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 9% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 2% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 4% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United Kingdom

J. L. SievertReviewed in the United Kingdom on 03 July 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
Untenable situation
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Borders, treaties, promises and international law meant nothing to the Nazis. All were breached or broken with impunity, justified by the expedience and contingencies of war. No brotherhood of man for them. No liberty, equality, fraternity among nations. Might meant right for the master race, its power enforced by an iron fist.

Peace and neutrality in Denmark had been maintained since The Great War (1914-18). That war was ferocious and killed millions, but not on Danish soil. Not since 1864 had Denmark and Germany been at war with one another.

Now, as the film opens, war has been raging on the Continent since September 1939. Since then the Scandinavian countries have done their best to pacify the Nazis while keeping them at bay. The neutrality of the Nordic countries is fragile, especially that of Denmark and Norway. If military confrontation comes, these countries won’t stand a chance, outmanned and outgunned by the Germans. The alternative is capitulation and collaboration, but as sovereign nations with long, proud traditions their instinct is to fight and defend themselves. Thus the situation looks untenable, damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

Both are invaded on 9 April 1940.

These words appear onscreen as the film opens:

~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~

A proclamation from His Majesty the King:

“Under these grave circumstances for our nation I urge everyone to uphold a correct and worthy conduct, as any rash action or utterance can have serious consequences. God save you all. God save Denmark.”

At dawn on April 9, 1940 German troops cross the Danish-German border. The poorly equipped Danish army faces the strongest military power in Europe. The heaviest fighting takes place in South Jutland.

~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~

Three young fresh-faced Danish soldiers are walking down a rural road toward their unit in South Jutland. It is the morning of April 8 and they are reporting for exercise and training. Their drills consist of loading carbines and firing them at targets as well as repairing punctures in the tyres of their bicycles. In each case they are timed with stop watches. A bicycle puncture must be repaired in under two minutes. Yes, a key fighting strategy for the Danish army — bicycles tyres fit for duty against an advancing enemy. Meanwhile to the south on the German side of the border armoured vehicles with machine gun mounts, panzers and infantry battalions are massing. A storm of steel awaits its moment of release. This is lightning warfare — blitzkreig — and there are few known antidotes to it. Recruits on bicycles with rifles and light, portable machine guns are not the likely answer. The hope is that the last-ditch negotiations between Denmark and Germany can prevent confrontation. Copenhagen moves in good faith toward this resolution. Berlin does not. The Führer’s mind is made up, and there is no negotiating with a demagogue, even among his generals. Denmark will be crushed and occupied. This will make the invasion of Norway, the main German prize, easier for the Nazis.

Danish Second-Lieutenant Sand rides in the back of a squad car toward his unit. He is the platoon leader of the soldiers on bicycles. They are all young, aged 19 to 21, whereas he, aged about 28, is an elder statesman among them. As an officer his orders are sacrosanct, never questioned or disobeyed. His men look up to him and trust him. His main job is to protect them under fire. His second task, if push comes to shove, is to delay the enemy’s advance for as long as possible.

The atmosphere is tense, but only among the officers. They know more than the soldiers fighting under them. There have been troop movements south of the border before, but they haven’t amounted to more than just military manoeuvres and war games. The Danish soldiers manning the border outposts are wary and nervous, although this is more or less their permanent state, as they are, or would be, the first contact point with the enemy. On April 7 and 8 the first signs of a bigger build-up than usual are being noticed at the border outposts. They have reported this movement, which is why Second-Lieutenant Sand has ordered all his men to report to camp and their barracks. On the evening of April 8 the men are told to eat well, prepare extra rounds of ammunition, go to bed early, and sleep in their uniforms and boots. Nothing beyond this is explicitly stated to them, as Danish territory has not been violated. Not yet. But the soldiers sense what is looming. They sleep fitfully.

Before dawn the siren sounds, the peace and silence of the camp shattered in an instant. The soldiers rush from bed, grab their helmets, rifles and gear. They scramble down the stairs and stand next to their bicycles outside, ramrod straight at attention. The commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Hintz, breaks the news to the troops. The border in South Jutland, 10 kilometres away, has been breached, overrun. The Germans are moving northward. A Danish motorcycle brigade with attached sidecars departs first. The border outposts could do nothing, surrendering immediately. The motorcycle troops will therefore offer the first line of resistance, followed by the second line — the lads on their bicycles. The thought of this is pitiful, the sight of it just as bad or worse.

Two hours later, just after dawn, the bicyclists meet the retreating motorcyclists. The motorcyclists look haunted, battered, scared. Nothing they could do but retreat after fighting. Second-Lieutenant Sand’s orders are to delay the German advance for as long as his platoon can hold out. With their bicycles they have greater manoeuvrability for retreat. They don’t need roads. They can carry their bicycles over hills and ride them through forests, their chances for protection greater than other units.

The Second-Lieutenant orders his troops to fan out on both sides of the narrow country road. They dig in at higher ground and wait. The sound of mechanised metal in motion is at first faint but soon grows louder. At length, over a slight rise in the road at a distance to the south, they see the first machines: tanks, armoured half-tracks, motorcycles. Next to them jog the infantry, rifles and automatic weapons in their hands.

The order to fire from the Second-Lieutenant is delayed for as long as possible. When it’s given, it’s the Germans who quickly fall. But only momentarily. The Danes can hold out for minutes only. How long? Perhaps 30 minutes or less. This is not a fight, it’s an ambush, because in truth no fight is possible. The Danes disperse and run for cover in nearby woodland. There they regroup and head through the forest with their bicycles to a pre-arranged defensive spot — a village called Hokkerup. Along the way they rest in a farmhouse and are tended to by an elderly Danish woman. She is fatalistic. War? The Jutland Peninsula, including the provinces of Schleswig and Holstein, has always been unstable, forever in a state of potential or actual war. Are these provinces Danish or German or both? Probably both, just as Alsace and Lorraine in eastern France are both, meaning French and German in this case.

The fighting cannot last long and doesn’t when the bicycle platoon gets to Hokkerup. There the soldiers hide in alleyways and behind walls in the village, awaiting the German advance. It arrives. But the situation is immediately hopeless. It’s suicide and slaughter to resist much longer. After a fight of less than an hour the Second-Lieutenant issues his command, screaming this order out to his men:

“Lay down your guns, hands in the air.”

They stand unarmed on the cobblestone street, waiting for what feels like their execution. But the commanding officer of the German troops is less interested in murder than talking.

“Why were you still fighting?” he asks the Second-Lieutenant. “Didn’t you know your government surrendered two hours ago?”

No, he didn’t, he says. That’s how bad Danish communication had become on this terribly chaotic day. What he said was true, and, most extraordinarily, the German commanding officer believed him. Perhaps it helped that one of the bicycle soldiers spoke fluent German, recounting to the German officer the activities of his unit that day. Either it was sympathy (rare in a Nazi) or pride (more likely) in being matched against an inferior opponent, that made the German officer act humanely.

The story is true, not a fictional account of war. At the end of the film a series of short testimonials is made by the surviving members of the South Jutland bicycle platoon. Interviewed in 2015, they are ancient now but still lucid. None has forgotten details from that day. They recount their luck at having survived the inferno of war. Except the ones who cannot speak, the two or three soldiers from their platoon who died that day in combat.

The film is not epic in scope and could not be. Skirmishes and ambushes are not battles. They are minor irritations to a military force that looks invincible. The Wehrmacht in 1940 was this force. It had rolled over Poland and the Baltic states, had taken the Low countries and France, was winning in North Africa, was now appropriating Denmark and Norway, and would soon be seeking the greatest prize of all — the Soviet Union and all its abundant resources. The Nazis looked and felt unstoppable, and it must have seemed inconceivably absurd to them that soldiers who looked like schoolboys on bicycles were trying to halt their progress in Denmark. Yes, absurd and almost comical, but the last laugh would be reserved for the world when the mighty German war machine was crushed and dismantled in 1945. The Russians held serve, D-Day was allowed to happen, the German eagle toppled in Berlin, and Hitler, cowardly to the end, put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

Oliver Hardy used to say to Stan Laurel:

“Well, that’s another fine mess you’ve got us into.”

Europe said the same to Germany. Twice, actually, in the 20th century. Germany finally got the message and grew up. For over 70 years it’s been trying to clean up the mess it made in Europe, and for this we should feel grateful and wish them continued success, with or without Britain’s assistance.

In Danish and German with embedded English subtitles that cannot be turned on or off.
17 people found this helpful
SHMReviewed in the United Kingdom on 17 September 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Very enjoyable as well as very interesting.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this film. In general, I like Scandinavian cinema. I have seen quite a few Swedish and Norwegian films, but relatively few Danish films. This film redressed the balance somewhat.

I know very little about Danish history. While I know that Denmark had been a neutral country in WW II, I had no idea that it had actually been at war with Germany for 6 hours. Therefore from an historical perspective, this film was interesting. In addition, one really felt for those soldiers, those raw recruits, isolated on the German/Danish border without backup, doing their best to hinder the German advance, but in ignorance of their government's capitulation.

Naturally, my sympathies were with the Danes, as was intended. However, when being manipulated by film makers, in this particular case I found it helpful to remember that Denmark, while it may have been neutral during WW II, was still no angel. After all, it too played the "game of thrones" and thus, when European Empire building was in fashion, it too helped itself to chunks of the rest of the world. How did Denmark acquire these lands? Did it walk in and take over, in much the same way as the Germans did later to Denmark?
3 people found this helpful
M. BaerendsReviewed in the United Kingdom on 25 March 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
1940
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Denmark's recent history includes several moments where Denmark bravely chose to confront a more powerful bully: think of 1801, 1807 and 1864. For some reason, in the spring of 1940 the country capitulated on the same day it was invaded. Perhaps sensibly so. "April 9th" tells the story of a platoon of soldiers, commanded by Pilou Asbaek (who features in most Danish series and movies), who do their utmost to stop the superior German forces.

Like so many Danish TV productions, April 9th is of the highest quality. The fighting scenes (which include Danes with only rifles and machine guns trying to stop a Panzer II) are on a par with any World War 2 movie. As a nice bonus, much of the illustrious cast of 'Borgen' or 'The Killing' shows up in one capacity or another - including of course the ubiquitous Pilou Asbaek, alas no Katrine Foensmark. Very enjoyable, high marks.
7 people found this helpful
Charles VaseyReviewed in the United Kingdom on 28 January 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
Weser Exercise
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April 1940 saw the attack of Germany on Denmark , truly a combat between a whale and a minnow. But we are in the trenches with the minnow, specifically a unit of bicycle mounted infantry near the frontier in South Jutland. This was an area (as an astute old lady in the film reminds us) that only came back to Denmark in 1920 after the Versailles plebiscites. Interrupted at training the troopers return to base and are called out after the German cross the frontier. Facing armoured cars and machine-gun armed tanks the Danes make a game try, ambushing a column, returing northwards, through a town and into the final clash in Haderslev where they fight until ammunition is short and the Germans pushing in on all sides. The war lasted about 6 hours but as the film makes clear this meant it was nevertheless fatal for a number of both sides. The equipment of the Danes, lovingly recreated, appears so out of date even by the standards of only four years later. The film is most effective in tracking the steady reduction in unit efficiency as losses and fatigue eat into the hardiest.
11 people found this helpful
IntensiveCareNurseReviewed in the United Kingdom on 11 December 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Authentic yet almost mundane.
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In defence of the invading German army, a troop of bicycle infantry lurch from one defensive standpoint to another.
Hardly a Hollywood blockbuster, and despite moments of mortal danger for the defenders, at no point is the viewer left feeling that the situations are overplayed for thrills. There is no real plot and very little of the usual background music or atmospheric sound, and because this leads to few surprises and feels almost mundane, a greater sense of immersion in the plot occurs as the simplistic events unfold.
The props and costumery are impressive, the German tanks & infantry carriers looking as modern, terrifying & utterly convincing as they would have in the day, all of which all adds greatly to the feeling of reality. I felt that the attention the producers had lent on this score gave the film a great deal.
I did feel that the personal relationships of the characters could have been played upon more.
Admittedly, much of the film is involved in the giving, receipt and acknowledgement of orders, and the film playtime of just 90 minutes leaves little room for more.
Having said that, the few Danish infantrymen who do get killed might have felt more poignant tragedies had their characters been explored a little more, and I believe just another 20 minutes film time would have better served to this end.
All in all the film felt a bit of an oddity to me, and despite well deserving of 4 stars just for its sense of reality the production and direction attains, its not a film I will remember particularly well or wish to revisit anytime soon down (I think) to its authentic and refreshing simplicity.
It's not a criticism either, as the film would have definitely lost an element of its authenticity had it pitched it any differently.
I hope that that makes sense without decrying the bravery of the worthy Danish defenders the film depicts...
TrevorReviewed in the United Kingdom on 25 August 2019
4.0 out of 5 stars
Not a huge blockbuster but well made.
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April 9th or 9.April to give it original title is the first film I've seen based on one of the days the Germans invaded another country in the beginning of World War two. It's about the invasion of Denmark. Starting out with an officer on his way to a training exercise we soon learn that the Germans are close to the German/Denmark boarder. The troops are ordered back to their barracks and told they will be handled live amo and to go to sleep in full kit and boots.
I really started to feel the dred of potentially having to go into real battle. As things escalated to the boarder gate getting worried hearing distant vehicles getting closer, I also felt more tense.
The time comes and the troops are put into position with promised reinforcements. As the hours pass and the fighting gets more intense I really felt I was on the ride with the Danish soldiers trying to defend their homeland from the invaders.

A very good low budget but well executed film.
3 people found this helpful
Rupert GarciaReviewed in the United Kingdom on 05 September 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Excellent.
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This little film rarely put a foot wrong, hence the five stars. Realistic combat scenes both in the field and urban were enhanced by the use of period weapons, such as the Madsen light machine gun, and the uniforms were also top notch. I did spot an anachronistic MG42, which obviously should have been a 34 model,but the Panzer II looked fearsome in such a relatively light conflict, and against soldiers with not much on them bar a single 20mm cannon, it would have been near invincible. No Hollywood heroics here, just an honest recreation of a tiny battle, but well worth watching for historical purposes if nothing else. I recognized a few of the actors from Scandinavian TV and the whole thing was very well put together. A very good war film.
One person found this helpful
Amazon CustomerReviewed in the United Kingdom on 21 October 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Invasion - from the point of view of the invaded.
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I like these war films from the European nations. They have a perspective of war that we in the UK and US just don't consider. Although there must have been days when our war generation must have felt threatened, we didn't ever reach the point, other than in the Channel Islands, where the German land forces could be seen on our land.
This film is nicely shot, following a small group of Danish soldiers as they encounter the might of the German war machine. The reality of the situation becomes apparent as the bicycle platoon dismount and take their positions only to see armored vehicles and Panzers coming over the horizon. With 40 rounds of ammunition each, they do what they can, suffering casualties in the process and falling back further north. Left alone, with a promise of support that never came, the final insult wasn't their inevitable surrender but the knowledge that their government had already surrendered and failed to let the towns in the firing line know for a further two hours.
Lives needlessly lost.
Its not the best war film ever made. Nor is it too shocking in its content. That title has to go to 'Come and See' - a Russian film that can be seen on YouTube. That is shot from the point of view of the locals after their invasion in 1941. It is harrowing for the viewer and brings home the true reality of war in a way I've never seen before.
Overall, this is a good film. The acting is very good and the story is followed by the testaments of the veterans at the end.
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