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Blu-ray Review: 'The Hunt'

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The Film:

The Hunt” is a devastating example of what can happen when one little lie gets completely out of control. The story revolves around Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), who’s going through a difficult time in his life. He’s in the middle of a divorce and is only allowed to have custody of his kid for two days every two weeks. For employment, he works at a local Kindergarten, where the kids love to play with him. His best friend Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen) has been having a feud with his wife lately, leading to Lucas spending a little time with their very young daughter, Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), as he takes her to and from school. Klara starts to see their relationship as something special, even going so far as to give Lucas a present and a kiss on the mouth, but when he tells her she shouldn’t be doing these things, she quickly decides that she hates him.

When she happens to bring up the subject with the principal, the story changes into something far worse, which immediately causes concern. From that moment, the story of what Lucas supposedly did to Klara spreads like wildfire, leading to him becoming an outcast of society. It even starts to affect his attempts to get longer custody of his son. Despite denying the allegations, things only seem to go from bad to worse as his life crumbles apart all around him.

“The Hunt” is one of those films where you can only begin to wonder how the main character’s situation could get any worse. At first, he’s just sent home from his job at the kindergarten, but soon he finds himself unwelcome at a grocery store and rejected by nearly all of his friends, all because of a little lie a child told. For the most part, the film works very well. It’s not exactly a comfortable viewing experience, but I suppose that’s the feeling the filmmakers were going for in their attempt to show how harmful one small falsity can be.

Over the course of two hours, there were only two parts of the film that I had any issues with. First, not long after the lie is told, Klara tries to tell her mother that she made it up. Instead of believing her as easily as she did about the actual accusation, she immediately tells her daughter that it did happen and that she merely wants to believe that it didn’t happen. It’s kind of a nonsensical scene given their readiness to accept Klara’s story in the first place, but perhaps it’s simply meant to convey the ignorance with which some people will believe anything a child says, especially given how big a deal the principal makes out of believing the children.

The second part that could have used a little work was the ending. After the effects of the lie are fully-spread, we eventually come to a bizarre ending where everything seems to have gone back to relative normalcy. No explanation, no details on what happened between now and the period the film jumps to for its final scenes. The final scene in particularly has its own set of issues, but for the purposes of avoiding spoilers, we won’t get into it.

What ends up holding the entire film together is the commanding performance of Mads Mikkelsen. The Danish actor wasn’t known very well in the United States until the great “Casino Royale,” but now he is starting to become recognized even here for his native films. As the film progresses, your heart really goes out to him and everything he has to put up with as the lie spreads around. The pain and frustration that Mikkelsen brings to the character are one of the main reasons the film works as well as it does. Without the ability to garner sympathy for Lucas, there wouldn’t be much for the audience to hold on to, but Mikkelsen acts as a superb anchor, making these two hours go by somewhat rapidly. In short, he’s the main reason to give this devastating analysis of truth a whirl.

Video/Audio:

“The Hunt” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.35:1, 1080p transfer of excellent quality. Much of the film is dark and drab, but the picture never suffers for it, always remaining sharp and clear with little to no fuzziness to be found. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is top notch, allowing all Danish and English dialogue to be heard crystal clear, in addition to every little sound on the soundtrack. The audio is also mixed at an appropriate level to where you won’t have to turn it way up like on some releases. Overall, the video and audio couldn’t be much better.

Special Features:

Outtakes/Deleted/Extended Scenes: About twelve minutes worth of scenes that didn’t make the cut, mostly involving pointless material featuring Theo at a Christmas party. You can easily see why they were removed, but they’re there just in case you feel like seeing what got left on the cutting room floor.

Making of The Hunt: A brief seven-minute featurette featuring interviews with star Mads Mikkelsen and director Thomas Vinterberg as they discuss various aspects of the film. It’s not particularly in-depth, but it is slightly informative.

Alternate Ending: This is an ending you can see coming from miles away, particularly given the actual ending used in the film. It’s just a slightly different direction that the film could have gone in the end. Whether it’s better or worse is really up to personal taste. Given that the final chunk of the film is done somewhat poorly, it’s rather hard to say.

Conclusion:

There’s not really much to these special features, but at least you get a little behind the scenes info with the star and director. This release is still easily recommendable thanks to the intriguing film, which is Denmark’s official entry for next year’s Academy Awards. Mads Mikkelsen’s powerful performance gives the film the strength it needs to tell its story, which in itself acts as a kind of indictment for taking a sweet, innocent child at their word. It may have a few issues, but “The Hunt” is still a strong, haunting film that is worth seeking out.

Score: 3.5/5

Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.

Recent Blu-ray/DVD releases: The Rooftop, Drinking Buddies, Inpractical Jokers: Season One, Planes, Paranoia, The To Do List, Blackfish, Paradise, White House Down, Grown Ups 2, Girl Most Likely, Robotech: The Complete Set, The Way, Way Back

Now playing in theaters: Out of the Furnace, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Dallas Buyers Club, Thor: The Dark World, Ender's Game, Carrie, Kill Your Darlings, Gravity, Argento's Dracula, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Despicable Me 2

Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.

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