Actor Mads (Hannibal, Pusher) Mikkelsen has turned in the best performance of his career in what critics and filmgoers will surely be labeling as the most shocking, twisted, heart-breaking, and utterly human foreign language film in years. The immediate acclaim, Oscar nomination, and skyrocketing position to the top 250 films on the Internet Movie Database are not the work of speculators or movie snobs. Though it's challenging subject matter will turn off most casual viewers, it is not only the most important film of the month, but of the new year. Granted, it was released in its native Denmark back in 2012 and received additional worldwide screenings throughout 2013, but only recently hit a large portion of the United States in 2014. It has had a lot of momentum to build and a slow loyal following promoting its greatness, but often times, such campaigning and marketing can cause a sense of letdown once one finally reaches the local cinema screen.
This film, originally titled Jagten, does not disappoint. The message, however, does.
Director Thomas Vinterberg (who also co-wrote the powerful screenplay) has a strong supporting cast of Denmark's greatest, but it is his expert usage of lead actor Mikkelsen that proves he is wise beyond his years in terms of directing prowess. Subtle metaphors and disheartening imagery cause a whirlwind of emotions as the viewer cannot help but be drawn into this world, much like our own, where a simple lie can utterly and completely destroy an innocent man with absolutely everything to lose. Never once approaching cliche and successfully avoiding the Hollywood ending, the movie will leave a bad taste in your mouth. You might even hate it. But that's the point. It's so real that it's hard to watch. It's so well done that we forget that it's just a movie. It accomplishes what other movies try to do each and every day: A deep sense of sorrow, a feeling of immeasurable dread, and an all-too-human desire to act. Reminiscent of The Deer Hunter, The Road, Schindler's List, and countless others, this is far and wide the most successful attempt at "movies that will absolutely positively ruin your entire day" sub-genre. See it.