From Denmark, this morally complex drama is urgent and provocative even if the story is full of lapses that make it feel oddly implausible. It's a reteaming of director Susanne Bier and screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen, whose breakout 2004 film Brothers (remade in 2009 with Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire) had similar problems: a high-concept premise that makes the dilemma more important than plot coherence.
Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau returns home to Denmark to star in the film. He plays Andreas, a detective who is horrified when he and his partner Simon (Ulrich Thomsen) find badly neglected infant Sofus in the home of lowlife ex-con Tristan (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and his junkie girlfriend Sanne (Lykke May Anderson). But there's no legal way to remove the baby from his parents. This hits Andreas especially hard since his son Alexander is the same age and his wife Anna (Maria Bonnevie) is struggling emotionally with motherhood. Then Alexander dies unexpectedly and Andreas hatches a plan: he swaps the dead Alexander for the abused Sofus. Obviously both of the mothers notice this immediately, but Anna accepts it and no one will listen to Sanne's outcry. And Tristan is preoccupied with trying to cover up what he thinks is his son's death.
Bier and Jensen work diligently to set up this premise, with details that try to address each aspect of the story, but it simply never holds water. For example, we never believe that Andreas' action is something any caring husband would do, especially one who works for the police. Or that Anna and Simon would go along with it. So as the story becomes increasingly entangled, everything begins to feel like it's heading for the only conclusion possible. Thankfully, Bier and Jensen are skilled enough to make all of this compelling, challenging the audience to confront each decision the characters make and consider the moral repercussions of everything they do.
Continue reading: A Second Chance Review
Superficially about child abuse, this riveting, troubling Danish film is actually an exploration of collective paranoia. And the centrepiece performance from Mikkelsen is so good that it helps us overlook some of the rather awkward plot points. Indeed, Mikkelsen won best actor at Cannes for his work here as an innocent man caught in an unexpected witch hunt. But the topic is so touchy that we almost start to doubt him.
Mikkelsen plays Lucas, a nice-guy kindergarten teacher who is recovering from a messy divorce and still hopes to get custody of his teen son Marcus (Fogelstrom). Lucas lives nearby his hunting pal Theo (Larsen), whose young daughter Klara (Wedderkopp) is one of his students. Lucas and Klara have a special connection, so when she tells him she loves him, he corrects her gently. She doesn't take this well, and lashes out with a random lie to the headmistress (Wold), who concludes that Lucas has been abusing her. From here, a series of misunderstandings turns Lucas' life into a nightmare, as he is shunned by everyone he knows.
The way the script creates such a perfect storm for Lucas' downfall is a bit convenient, as several characters bullheadedly refuse to believe a word he says (including his boss and his best friend). And Lucas never defends himself, which might be understandable since he can't even imagine why anyone would accuse him of something so horrible. Mikkelsen plays the role with transparent emotion that grabs hold of us from the start and never lets go. His interaction with everyone is pointed and often shattering. And watching his helplessness in the face of Klara's small germ of a lie is often painful to watch.
Continue reading: The Hunt [Jagten] Review
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