Starring: Aksel Hennie, Nikolai Coster-Waldau.
Running Time: 100 mins.
Seen At: Didsbury
On: Tuesday, 10th April, 2012.
With last December’s bold and hard-hitting Hollywood remake of the phenomenon of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as well as the stratospheric success of Nordic television serials, such as The Killing and currently The Bridge, it was only a matter of time before another cinematic equivalent cracked the international multiplex. I think it must be the oxymoronic antithesis of ice-freezing, secluded locality coupled with the heat from the slow-burn of expertly executed and cleverly-paced tension that accounts for its sudden flurry of success, keeps us coming back for more.
Here, based on Jo Nesbo’s pulpy page-turner, the curiously Anglo-sounding-named Roger Brown makes for our most unlikely of protagonists – particularly for the lead in the glossy, slickly-shot thriller that this first appears to be. He’s the epitome of average – average height, usual dissatisfaction etc, but certainly doesn’t have the average wife or lead the average life.
She’s demanding, high-maintenance and gorgeous, but the luxury in which they bathe comes at a crime-ridden price: by day Brown’s a sharp-suited coprate headhunter enveloped into a world of sterile, minimalist high-rise windows and board meetings, by night that’s juxstaposed with balaclavas and the art of quick thinking – he’s an expert in the theft of priceless paintings.
This seemingly idyllic occupational dichotomy is cataclysmically shattered by Roger’s chance meeting with the smooth-talking (and even smoother-haired) Clas Grieve (Nicolai Coster-Waldau). Posing as a prospective buyer, in sneakily deceptive actuality he’s a dangerous ex-military figure developing a deadly new drug to distribute, invisible interceptors, usually manufactured in the form of soaps, and hand or hair gels – which actually track the entire population’s every move. Soon of course, inexplicable changes start occurring to Roger’s day-to-day routine and he’s forced to go on a frenetic and increasingly deadly run…
Effortlessly directed by Swedish auteur Morton Tyldum, this is a highly accomplished juggernaut of a movie. The Swedish subtitles quickly become perfunctory and, as a clever conceit, we discover every clockwork, shocking twist and turn along with Roger’s direct, increasingly bewildered point-of-view.
In an odd, but fitting addition, the increasingly desperate, bordering on implausible scraps in which Roger finds himself entangled only add to its appeal, not least because it actually has some very funny segments, in a highly unusual, almost impossibly entertaining way. It’s an almost guilty laughter.
It’s violence, like Dragon Tattoo is certainly shocking, but never overly so, or left to descend into gratuity. Incidents involving every conceivable – and inconceivable, increasing bizarre scenario, from exploding cartons of milk, a desperate dash in a digger and jumping down a toilet without a paddle, make for original, frenzied and adrenaline-pumping viewing as chases, crashes and infidelity, crossing and double-crossing ensues…
Aksel Hennie is relatable as Roger, the suitably scrappy man at the centre of it all – (he’s also extremely gutsy, having had to completely shave his real hair off in one sequence, due to plot reasoning of the tracer receptors being found in hair follicles, thus, his location compromised.
The film really belongs to Game of Thrones star, the brilliant Nicolai Coster-Waldau, who brings an electrically commanding presence to the lethal nemesis on his trail, Clas Grieve, a man skilled to perfection – an imposing, deeply unsettling figure. Coster-Waldau must go down as one of the truly great supporting actor performances of the year, and really deserves early Oscar prediction-acknowledgment.
Hollywood star Mark Wahlberg is reportedly set to star as Roger in the upcoming remake, he’s somewhat of an unlikely choice; normally associated with the polished, self-assured tough-guy types of Max Payne and more recently Contraband – everything the character of Roger isn’t, but I’m certainly looking forward to seeing it.
Stylistically, this is edited with the economy of a freight train, slick, quick and uber-stylish. Quiet word-of-mouth and effective digital marketing such as twitter hype are appropriate strategies to promote an ultra-modern film. Pacy, breathless and absolutely fantastic – this will be in my top ten of the year.
Rating: * * * *