On 27 April 1940, a Luftwaffe Heinkel He 111 bomber (1H+CT) is shot down near Grotli by a Fleet Air Arm Blackburn Skua (L2940) fighter. Three of the German crew are survivors: pilot Leutnant Horst Schopis (Florian Lukas), Unteroffizier Josef Schwartz (David Kross) and Feldwebel Wolfgang Strunk (Stig Henrik Hoff), who set off looking for shelter. Two British survivors from the aircraft that shot them down have also crash-landed near the same location.
When Capt. Charles P. Davenport (Lachlan Nieboer) and his air gunner Robert Smith (Rupert Grint) meet up with the German crew, they find out that they can all share the same abandoned Norwegian cabin, despite an uneasy armed standoff. In order to survive the harsh Norwegian winter, the German and British crew members have to learn to cooperate and an unlikely friendship blossoms between the survivors.
When the snowstorm which hindered them from trying to find civilization finally ended, Norwegian soldiers set out for a patrol to look for the downed German airmen. They first encountered Smith and Strunk skiing downhill to look for civilization. A Norwegian sniper fatally shot Strunk and captured Smith, who then leads the patrol to the others.
During interrogation of the survivors by a Norwegian officer, he explains to the British airmen they may be classified as collaborators. Davenport angrily tells his summary of the events, which then silences the Norwegian officer.
Shopis and Schwartz were sent as prisoners of war to Canada while Smith and Davenport were sent back to the UK for another mission.
The main cast for the film includes:
Although a realistic mock-up of a Heinkel He 111 bomber is used, nearly all of the production is set in a cabin with only occasional exterior scenes, prompting one reviewer to note that the film was more like a play. Filming began 28 March 2011 with three weeks of shooting in Grotli, Norway, near where the actual events occurred, with some scenes being shot in Trollhättan and Brålanda, Sweden. The finished film was released in March 2012.
The film account is loosely based on historical events, although the British characters' names are changed. Captain R.T. Partridge is renamed Charles P. Davenport and Lieutenant R.S. Bostock became Robert Smith. The German characters bear the names of their real-life counterparts. Three British Royal Navy Blackburn Skuas operating from HMS Ark Royal attacked the Heinkel He 111 and knocked out the Germans' port engine. The German aircraft crashed 1,000 meters above sea level in a remote mountain area, miles from any major road. The German tail gunner Hans Hauck was dead when the bomber crashed.
Captain R.T. Partridge, squadron leader of the 800 Naval Air Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, experienced a failing engine in his Skua and glided down to land on a frozen lake. He had seen a small hut nearby and he and his radio operator, Lieutenant Bostock, hiked through heavy snow to the deserted reindeer hunters' cabin. A few minutes later, they were alerted by a whistle and saw the three survivors of the German Heinkel armed with pistols and knives. Speaking broken German and English, the British managed to persuade the Germans that they were the crew of a Vickers Wellington bomber, rather than the fighter that had shot them down. The Germans believed that they had been shot down by a Supermarine Spitfire.
In Luftkampfgegner wurden Freunde ("Air combat opponents became friends"), Horst Schopis wrote in his memoirs:
As it was getting dark Captain Partridge suggested that the Germans stay in the hut. The two British officers left and found a small chalet, which turned out to be the Grotli Hotel, which was closed for the winter. The German crew arrived the next morning and shared breakfast. It was agreed that the Captain R. T. Partridge and the German Karl-Heinz Strunk would try to locate other people. They met a Norwegian ski patrol. Strunk shouted out "Ingleesh". The Norwegian patrol fired a warning shot at which Partridge fell to the ground and Strunk placed his hands on his head. Lieutenant Bostock emerged from the hotel, suspecting that the German had shot Partridge, but instead saw Strunk apparently reaching for his pistol. One of the Norwegians, seeing this, shot him.
The two Germans survivors—Hauptmann Schopis and mechanic Joseph Auchtor—were taken over the mountains to Stryn as prisoners. Later they were sent to Britain and on to a prison camp in Canada, where they remained until 1947. The German tail gunner Hans Hauck was given a memorial stone which still stands near the Grotli Hotel. Strunk was initially buried in Skjåk cemetery, then later transferred to the war cemetery in Trondheim.
The British had some difficulty in convincing the Norwegians of their nationality until they showed the tailor's label on their uniforms and found a half crown British coin. By sheer coincidence the commander of the Norwegian patrol turned out to be a brother-in-law of a friend of Captain Partridge. The two freed British airmen hiked into Ålesund, which was being defended by Royal Marines under heavy Luftwaffe bombing. As the destroyer scheduled to evacuate the British force failed to arrive, they commandeered a car and drove to the port of Åndalsnes, where they were eventually returned to the United Kingdom by the cruiser HMS Manchester.
Captain Partridge and Lieutenant Bostock took part in the attempt to sink the German battleship Scharnhorst on 13 June 1940. Partridge was shot down near Stallvik in the Trondheimsfjord and captured by German troops. Lieutenant Bostock was killed in another Blackburn Skua on the same raid.
Both the German pilot Horst Schopis and the British pilot R.T. Partridge wrote books about their experiences before, during and after the war, entitled Luftkampfgegner wurden Freunde and Operation Skua.
In 1974, the original L2940 was recovered from Breidalsvatnet lake near Grotli in Skjåk municipality and the wreck is on display at the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovilton. The original Heinkel wreck remains in the mountains at Grotli around 1,000 metres above sea level, left untouched in the snow.
In 1974 and 2004, Horst Schopis visited Grotli, but died in 2011 at 99 years of age, one year before the film's release. British captain R.T. Partridge visited Grotli in 1974, and died in 1990.
Into the White premiered at the Filmfest Oslo in March 2012 and was subsequently widely released in Norway where it grossed $636,469. In the US, the film had a limited release in select theatres.
Critical reviews were mixed, with some reviewers noting that the atmosphere and setting dominated to the detriment of the plot. Neil Lumbard in his review for DVD Talk, commented: "The entirety of the film revolves around a somewhat simplistic plot element, which is based on actual historical events, but doesn't engage much beyond the central concept of the film ... The film is slow paced and for some audience members this is an obvious detriment."
It has a rating of 50% at Rotten Tomatoes. As of 12 October 2014, the film received an approval rating of 7.1 out of 10 at IMDB.
The trio of Årets lyddesign, Nikolai Linck and Andreas Kongsgaard were nominated for an Amanda Award for Best Sound Design in Into the White.
Into the White was released on DVD and Blu-ray on 28 August 2012 in Norway.