“If you’re old enough to go to war, you’re old enough to clean up your mess.” So surmises a particularly snotty Danish officer who, unbeknownst to him, has also delivered the central premise of suitably Danish-sounding director Martin Zandvliet’s World War Two thriller.

It is nigh on impossible to find a film these days that doesn’t commend itself almost immediately for being “Based on a true story”. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next Transformers pulled this one. After all, those robo-dinosaurs had organic precedent. But as it turns out, World War Two really did happen, even in Denmark. But Land of Mine is an unconventional war film in that it starts after the war has ended, as the German POWs are evacuating. Unfortunately, some of the teenagers are forced to stay behind to clear up the 500,000 hectares of mine-ridden beach the grown-ups left behind so as to legitimise the film’s titular pun. We follow a gaggle of 13 such boys, the barky Sergeant responsible for them (Roland Mǿller) and his humanising dog who is largely relegated to sitting in a jeep – a wasted opportunity when he could have sniffed out the 45,000 mines himself no doubt.

Cue ninety minutes of the I’m-a-military-man-so-I-shout-a-lot Sergeant shouting at rather confusingly similar looking boys (is that Werner or Wilhelm?) poking around in the sand. Every so often, one of them will blow up and the rest will nab a cheeky post-trauma stress break before returning to work, a bit like going out for a quick fag. These scenes are laced with the best windswept beachey shots this side of Dunkirk, but unlike Dunkirk, aren’t accompanied by a soundtrack that will bore through both sides of your head. Indeed, it’s a rather sombre little track which falls down only because it is repeated identically maybe fifteen times throughout the film. I feel like its composer, Sune Martin, must have had a very productive twenty minutes.

None of this is to say I did not enjoy “Land of Mine”. The performances are unanimously pretty fantastic (particularly the grouchy Sergeant who vacillates wildly between empathetic father figure and tyrant) and the Lessner twins. Unfortunately, no one told them that having an identical twin in a minefield makes at least one of you very expendable indeed. No spoilers.

Not everything is grim on these western Danish shores though. The Sergeant softens up after seeing a sufficient quantity of teenage entrails (even to the extent where he starts to think twice about placing a large, wooden bar over the door to their sleeping quarters every night) and, in one of the film’s most poignant moments, quits the abuse to challenge his cohort to a football game which is played, rather audaciously, on the beach that an hour earlier was having high explosives plucked out of it. Out of sight, out of mind I guess. It is a rare explosion of joy in a film that is, for the most part, as gloomy as the swollen Danish skies that hang above them . And this a film that does not shy away from intermittent but inevitable gore. We are not spared the fleshy denouement of a misplaced step and, seeing as around half of those who took part in this diabolical spring clean actually did lose their limbs and/or their lives, this is as it should be.

“Land of Mine” is an elegant, handsomely made and sincerely (sometimes cripplingly) well-performed portrait of an episode that deserves more than the minimal attention it has received. It would have been even better if a little more time had been taken to flesh out (not as literally as the film interprets this) the individual boys to the extent where I could remember their names/ recognise their faces but watching an adolescent’s quivering hand poke about in a metal disk with potentially chunky consequences is gripping stuff regardless, so who cares? Besides, they’re not likely to make it to the next scene anyway.

Land of Mine is directed by Martin Zandvliet