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Skytten

English title: The Shooter

D: Annette K. Olesen / 90m

Cast: Trine Dyrholm, Kim Bodnia, Kristian Halken, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Lars Ranthe, Marie-Louise Coninck, Carsten Bjørnlund

A remake of 1977’s The Marksman, this updates the political cause from keeping Denmark a nuclear-free zone to one where the government is holding back information about an off-shore oil deal that involves the US.

The movie begins with a montage detailing the election of a new government, one founded on strong environmental credentials, in particular, the promise that their won’t be any drilling for oil in the area between the Danish coastline and Greenland. Nearly a year later, and the Government has done a complete u-turn; now, in conjunction with the US and Greenland there is a deal to exploit the oil fields that have been found, and which will see significant investment made in Denmark itself by the US. Journalist Mia Moesgaard (Dyrholm) takes part in a TV debate with government minister Thomas Borby (Kaas) where she is manipulated into appearing to advocate violent reprisals against the drilling. Watching the broadcast is a geological worker, Rasmus (Bodnia).  He has information that proves the government is lying about vital aspects of the oil field. He also agrees with the idea that violent action is the way to force the issue out into the open. He sends Mia the information he has gathered, but while the newspaper strives to confirm the figures he’s provided, he takes it upon himself to target the people he feels are responsible for betraying the Danish electorate. Soon, he and Mia are being regarded as in collusion, and Mia has to do everything she can to stop Rasmus from carrying out his plan to stop the deal from being ratified.

Like its predecessor, Skytten relies on its conspiracy to provide the driving force for the movie, and while the notion that the government is covering up a big lie is usually a reliable one, here it appears to boil down to just how much oil is under the sea; it’s only in the closing minutes that the real reason for the deal is revealed, and even then, it’s still an underwhelming one. It’s an approach that comes close to undermining the movie’s credibility as an exciting political thriller – which it remains – but a better scenario would have been preferable.

Skytten - scene

There’s also an awkward sub-plot involving Mia adopting a child from India. She has to attend an adoption meeting in India in a few days from when Rasmus contacts her; if she doesn’t then she loses her chance. So now we have a race against time on two fronts, with Mia desperate to stop Rasmus as much for personal reasons as to stop him from killing someone. It’s an uneasy decision that the filmmakers have gone for, a mixture of the personal and the political, and while Dyrholm copes with the emotional tug-of-war that defines her character, it doesn’t quite work: her journalistic instincts always seem stronger than her maternal ones.

As for Rasmus, Bodnia keeps him removed emotionally, playing him almost passively, as if he has no choice in what he’s doing. His motives are clear, but there is little to explain his reasons for taking the action he does. In some respects it makes for a more interesting character, but ultimately he remains a cipher, there to provide the danger the movie requires but providing the viewer with little else than an avenging angel. That said, in his scenes with Mia, his presence is unsettling, and you’re never sure how he’s going to react when she challenges him over his actions.

Although the meat of the story is the effort to track down Rasmus and prevent him from disrupting the deal’s ratification, there are nods in the direction of newspaper censorship, civil liberties, whistle-blowing, and political expediency, all of which help to ground the thriller aspects and darken the main theme even further.  Olesen, who directed four episodes of the series Borgen, keeps a firm grip on things throughout and knows when to up the pace. The final sequence, where Mia tracks down Rasmus while everyone else thinks he’s heading for the border, owes a little to Fred Zinnemann’s The Day of the Jackal, and makes for a satisfying conclusion.

Shot in a familiar, wintry style by cinematographer Rasmus Videbæk, Skytten works best when focused on Mia or Rasmus, and both actors give good performances. The tension that mounts gradually until the final showdown is aided by fine editing courtesy of Nicolaj Monberg, and if the denouement is a trifle pat it doesn’t detract from what’s gone before.

Rating: 7/10 – an absorbing, occasionally over-elaborate movie that works well on the whole but trips over itself in its efforts to be clever; good central performances keep it from faltering completely.

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