Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after last year's beautiful adaptation of Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd. Set in 1970s Denmark, this intimate drama explores a complex web of relationships ignited by a social experiment. It's a beautifully made film with an ace cast of actors. And the layers of resonance keep it involving even when it drifts into melodrama from time to time.
After inheriting the home where he grew up, architecture professor Erik (Festen's Ulrich Thomsen) and his news anchor wife Anna (A Royal Affair's Trine Dyrholm) decide to move in. But the house is too big for just them and their 14-year-old daughter Freja (Martha Sofie Wallstrom Hansen). So they invite their old pal Ole (Lars Ranthe) to join them, then vote to admit several others, including a couple (Anne Gry Henningsen and Magnus Millang) with a frail 6-year-old son and a guy (Fares Fares, of The Keeper of Lost Causes) who wears his emotions on his sleeve. With the house full, their lives become enjoyably full. Then this warm extended family has to face a serious challenge when Erik falls in love with his student Emma (Helene Reingaard Neumann) and decides to move her into the house as well.
While the entire cast is excellent, the main focus is on central quartet of Thomsen, Dyrholm, Hansen and Neumann, each of whom delivers a surprisingly textured performance as an engaging person whose personal decisions create all kinds of issues for the people around them. Obviously, Dyrholm's role elicits the most sympathy as a woman trying to be open-minded about her husband's affair, but unable to avoid the feeling that her life is crumbling around her. Her scenes with Hansen and Neumann carry an extra emotional kick that's very moving. Meanwhile, Thomsen is sympathetic but not very likeable, understandably.
Continue reading: The Commune [Kollektivet] Review
A meaty, fascinating story is splintered into three plot strands that battle for the viewer's attention, so while the film is never boring, it's also oddly uninvolving. Fortunately, it has an excellent cast and is shot with skill and a relentless intensity to feel like a big, epic-style dramatic thriller with heavy political overtones.
After a scene-setting prologue, the story starts in 1953 Moscow, where Leo (Tom Hardy) is a war hero now working in the military police, purging the city of its spies. Or at least its suspected spies. In the Soviet socialist utopia, crime officially doesn't exist, but Leo finds it difficult to tell his best pal Alexei (Fares Fares) that his 8-year-old son was killed in a train accident when he was so clearly tortured and murdered. Ordered by his boss (Vincent Cassel) to let it go, and menaced by his rival colleague Vasili (Joel Kinnaman), Leo continues investigating, resulting in a reprimand that sees Leo and his wife Raisa (Noomi Rapace) relocated to the the grim industrial city of Volsk. But when another young boy's body appears here, Leo gets his new boss (Gary Oldman) to see the connection.
There are at least three main plots in this film, and the filmmakers oddly never allow one to become the central strand. There's the mystery involving this brutal, unhinged serial killer (Paddy Considine) stalking boys along the railway. There's the thriller about Leo being brutally taunted by Vasili, who has a thing for Raisa and is trying to crush them for good. But the only emotionally engaging strand is Leo and Raisa's complex marriage relationship, which takes a couple of unexpected turns. Along the way, there are several action sequences shot with shaky cameras and edited so they're impossible to follow. And there's a sense that the film also wants to be a grandiose Russian epic with its expansive cinematography and big orchestral score.
Continue reading: Child 44 Review
During the Second World War, many Russian men were able to make a name for themselves as heroes. Returning home to their victorious country, many discovered that the Communist utopia they had fought to defend may have been more fictitious than they originally thought. For Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy), this truth comes harshly. Having become a hero for his efforts in the war against Germany, Demidov is given the job as a secret policeman. But when he comes across the case of a potential serial killer that hunts children, his superiors refuse to acknowledge the crime, maintaining that they live in a perfect world. After being exiled from Moscow for refusing to drop the case, Demidov must search for the real truth behind the killings, despite knowing that the truth could be dangerous.
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Like the first episode of a finely crafted TV series you won't want to miss, this sharply involving Danish thriller introduces us to the mystery-solving duo of Department Q. A second film has been shot, and a third is in the works, and it's well worth jumping on board with this seriously complex franchise-opener, a combination of fascinating characters and a riveting story.
It opens with detective Carl (The Killing's Nikolaj Lie Kaas), who's reeling after a routine stakeout goes horribly wrong, leaving his partner dead and his best friend (Troels Lyby) paralysed in hospital. His tough-minded boss (Soren Pilmark) reassigns him to work in the basement, cleaning out the unsolved files piling up in Department Q. His new partner is the rookie Assad (Zero Dark Thirty's Fares Fares), and the first case that catches Carl's eye involves young politician Merete (Sonja Richter), who apparently leapt to her death from a ferry. But her body was never found, and Carl doesn't think she would have left her mentally impaired brother Uffe (Mikkel Boe Folsgaard) to fend for himself on the ship. When Carl and Fared start re-interviewing witnesses, they clearly strike a nerve, as their boss and the original cop (Michael Brostrup) on the case repeatedly tell them to drop it.
It's great to see a story like this given the chance to play out so cinematically, instead of being forced into a one-hour TV slot. Not only does director Mikkel Norgaard make terrific use of big-screen imagery, but the script by Nikolaj Arcel (who wrote the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo film) is a beautifully structured blend of flashbacks and parallel timelines that build maximum tension as things come to a boil. The film is also packed with smaller scenes that offering gripping wrinkles both in the plot and in the characters' personalities. One of the most fascinating elements is Assad's patient friendship with Uffe after Carl's abrasive approach alienates him. It's just one of the details that make Kaas and Fares a terrific on-screen partnership.
Continue reading: The Keeper Of Lost Causes Review
Carl Morck is a police detective who is forced to work in Department Q after an incident during a routine practise. Department Q is where they keep the files for years old cold cases and he and his partner Assad must band together to solve some of the police department's biggest unsolved mysteries. They are looking at the case of missing politician Merete Lynggaard who disappeared without a trace five years ago; the chances of them solving the case and finding Lynggaard alive or dead are looking slim, but little do they realise just how dark this case will get as snippets of the truth begin to leak out.
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JW has served three years of his prison sentence so far after being arrested for smuggling cocaine. Once a gifted business student at the Stockholm School of Economics, he is now struggling to move his life in the right direction - a feat that becomes harder when he is reunited with former partner-in-crime Mrado Slovovic. Having avoided trouble behind bars, he is being trusted to take unsupervised leave, however he has absolutely no intention of returning. Mrado phones him from the prison to inform him that there’s a stash of cash belonging to their mafia rival Radovan Kranjic, but JW is having doubts about involving himself in the criminal world when it becomes clear that many people will get hurt. Meanwhile, JW attempts to distract himself by resuming his life of parties, drugs and alcohol.
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Eight songs about female power that you definitely need to hear right now.
Shirley Manson is well known for her vocal political views, and she takes no prisoners with Garbage's latest single 'The Men Who Rule The World'.
The biggest names in music royalty.
One of the most diverse line-ups we've seen for a major awards show in a while.
Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...
A meaty, fascinating story is splintered into three plot strands that battle for the viewer's...
Like the first episode of a finely crafted TV series you won't want to miss,...
Carl Morck is a police detective who is forced to work in Department Q after...
JW has served three years of his prison sentence so far after being arrested for...