FANTASTIC FEST 2011
By Don Simpson | September 27, 2011
Director: Morten Tyldum
Writers: Lars Gudmestad, Ulf Ryberg, Jo Nesbø (novel)
Starring: Aksel Hennie, Synnøve Macody Lund, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Julie Ølgaard, Eivind Sander, Kyrre Haugen Sydness, Torgrim Mellum Stene
Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is a corporate headhunter who is currently looking for a new CEO of a Norwegian GPS technology conglomerate, Pathfinder. During his interviews Roger likes to compare personal art collections — specifically if the candidate has any expensive artwork hanging in their home — and whether or not the candidate owns any dogs.
We soon discover why Roger cares about such details… To supplement his salary, Roger is an art thief. But even the two revenue streams are not significant enough for Roger to afford the mortgage on his lavish modernist home, especially since he feels the need to excessively shower his gorgeous and intelligent wife, Diane (Synnøve Macody Lund), with gifts.
Roger’s spending habits are to compensate for his height — or lack thereof. It probably does not help that his wife towers over him. His Napoleon complex also seems to explain his condescending and arrogant tone towards his interviewees, especially when he wields his power and influence to destroy their confidence. Roger’s goal as an interviewer is to get the candidate to admit they are bluffing, that they are truly unsuitable for the position. If the interviewee can pass the nine steps laid out by Inbau, Reid and Buckley in their 1962 book Criminal Interrogation and Confessions without confessing they they are unqualified, there is reason to assume that the candidate really believes they have the necessary qualifications — those are the candidates Roger is looking for.
Diane introduces Roger to Clas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) — the former CEO of a Dutch GPS firm, HOTE. Clas quickly becomes the top candidate for the Pathfinder position; coincidentally, he also possesses a long-lost original Peter Paul Rubens’ painting — The Calydonian Boar Hunt — which is valued at over $100 million dollars.
If Roger and his partner in crime, Ove (Eivind Sander), can get the Rubens from Clas’ flat, their payday could potentially clear all of Roger’s debt and then some. If only Roger listened more closely to Clas’ military history, he would know that Clas is trained to track down people. Needless to day, Roger soon finds himself quite literally over his head in shit as a dangerous game of cat and mouse commences.
Tyldum gives the audience full access into Roger’s mind; we can truly understand Roger’s motivations and that allows us to empathize and root for this very unlikable person. It certainly helps Roger’s case when he is being pursued by a character as evil as Clas.
Adapted from Jo Nesbø’s best-selling novel, Headhunters is an incredibly taut thriller that surpasses the recent Scandinavian sensation — the Millennium trilogy. (Speaking of… You might notice Diana watching The Girl Who Played with Fire on television or recognize some aerial shots from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that director Morten Tyldum co-opted for Headhunters.) Immaculately paced and conceived beautifully, Headhunters is a perfect example of why Scandinavian thrillers can often be much more effective than Hollywood ones. (Do not fret if you prefer Hollywood thrillers — Summit Entertainment has already acquired the rights to produce an American remake.) This is partially because Scandinavian cinema conveys a uniquely cold and uncomfortable tone that seems impossible for Hollywood to match. Scandinavian cinema also seems to assume that its audience is more intelligent than Hollywood cinema does; Headhunters, for one, never panders or over-explains things and it always assumes that we are giving it our undivided attention.