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
At four hours long, this drama is as confrontational as anything we've seen by Lars von Trier (Melancholia), but it's also perhaps his most humane and hopeful film yet. This is a challenging, complex exploration of human sexuality, but it's told with a surprisingly light touch, allowing humour and warmth to seep in around the edges. So even if it's darkly haunting and occasionally shocking, violent or sexually explicit, it's so recognisably honest that we can't help but be moved.
This is the story of Joe (played as a teen by Martin and as an adult by Gainsbourg), who is found near death in an alleyway and nursed back to health by the kindly Seligman (Skarsgard). While she recovers from her injuries, she tells him about her life, which has been defined by sex since she was 2 years old. She loses her virginity as a teen to the greasy biker Jerome (LaBeouf), who will re-enter her life two more times over the following decades. Through the years she struggles to understand love, which she sees as lust plus jealousy. Then when she suspects that love might be the secret ingredient for good sex, her subsequent experiences take her down an unexpected road.
Flashbacks to Joe's life are sequential, so as she narrates her story we experience it along with her. This includes her riotous teen years preying on men as a game, protesting with her friends against a love-fixated society. Getting sex is easy, but making sense of it is something else. She tries being randomly cruel to men, and having a master (Bell) physically abuse her. She experiences love and motherhood, and eventually finds a career as an enforcer for a loan shark (Dafoe). Along the way, Martin and Gainsbourg deliver unflinching performances that let us see Joe's soul. And Skarsgard takes our breath away in an unusually introspective, wrenching role.
Continue reading: Nymphomaniac Review
Lars Von Trier, Uma Thurman, Stacey Martin, Stellan Skarsgard, Christian Slater, Shia LaBeouf and Louise Vesth - Photo call for Nymphomanic Volume 1, 64th Berlin International Film Festival, (Berlinale) at the Hyatt Potsdamer Platz - Berlin, Germany - Sunday 9th February 2014
In 1766, aristocratic English girl Caroline (Vikander) is married off to the Danish King (Folsgaard) to preserve the dynasty. But his brutish rule turns her against him, and she seeks intellectual stimulation from the King's close advisor Johann (Mikkelsen). Eventually, this meeting of minds turns into a lusty affair, as the Queen and Johann plot to turn Denmark into a progressive, compassionate nation. Meanwhile, the King's stepmother (Dyrholm) is conniving to have him declared unfit so her son (Nielsen) can claim the throne.
Continue reading: A Royal Affair Review
As always, he creates a stunning visual film experience full of raw, wrenching performances. And he tackles themes that are so big that we're not quite sure what to make of it in the end.
Justine (Dunst) is feeling a bit detached on the day of her wedding to the doting Michael (Alexander Skarsgard), and her brother-in-law John (Sutherland) is annoyed that she's not enjoying the expensive party he's staging. Her sister Claire (Gainsbourg) is more understanding, even when events take a few strange turns. Later, the shattered Justine will become the voice of reason when the planet Melancholia, which has been hiding behind the sun, heads towards Earth in a dramatic fly-by. Now it's Claire who's overwhelmed with moodiness, fearing for her young son (Spurr).
Continue reading: Melancholia Review