Pioneer and the 10 best Scandi thrillers
Feature by Guest writer
TELEVISION in particular has seen a particular boom in successful Scandinavian shows making their way into homes of audiences here in the UK, but let it not be forgotten that cinema has had a fair bit of Scandinavian content trickling through for quite some time now, with many names in the Hollywood spotlight (Refn, Mikkelsen, Rapace, Coster-Waldau, etc.).
With the Blu-ray and DVD release of Erik Skjoldbjærg’s Pioneer (rumoured to be set for a US remake by George Clooney and Grant Heslov) arriving on August 4, 2014 from Arrow Films, we take a look at the ten best examples of the Scandi thriller.
Before Drive and Only God Forgives, Nicolas Winding Refn made Pusher, a Danish crime thriller which launched his ensuing career. The film follows drug dealer Frank (Kim Bodnia) who grows increasingly more desperate when a botched drug deal leaves him with a large debt owed to a ruthless drug lord. Many have deemed Pusher the first Danish-language gangster film.
The Hunters (1996)
This 1996 Swedish thriller follows a police officer who moves back to his hometown in Norrland where he starts working on a long-running case of reindeer poaching only to discover his brother’s involvement. Going down in history as one of the biggest box office hits in Sweden, talks of an American remake were scuppered when director Kjell Sundvall decided he didn’t like the idea of translating events of the film to cowboys poaching horses in the Nevada desert. A sequel – False Trail – starring character actor Peter Stormare followed in 2011
Pusher II (2004)
Nicolas Winding Refn returned to this universe in sequel Pusher II, which instead follows Frank’s sidekick Tonny (an early role for Hannibal’s Mads Mikkelsen) in the same fictional Copenhagen underworld depicted in the first film. Refn reused many stylistic flourishes which he featured in the first enhancing the thriller aspect more so in this sequel.
The Millennium Trilogy (2009)
Adapted from Stieg Larsson’s posthumously published trio of hugely-acclaimed novels, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was brought to life by director Niels Arden Oplev , whilst both The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest were helmed by Daniel Alfredson. The films are led by former journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) and computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) at the centre of an unlikely love story set to the backdrop of an extremely bleak Sweden in which the two of them uncover unspeakable horrors of men victimising women.
Easy Money (2010)
This Swedish thriller from director Daniel Espinosa stars Joel Kinnaman (2014’s RoboCop) as Johan Westlund, a poor man living a double life in the upper class areas of Stockholm. Upon meeting a wealthy female, he is lured into the world of organised crime turning to drug dealing in order to sustain his luxurious lifestyle. A Hollywood remake is due to be released, with Zac Efron filling Kinnaman’s shoes in the lead role.
In a Better World (2010)
Susanne Bier’s acclaimed Academy-Award winning Danish drama thriller follows two Danish families whose lives cross paths leaving loneliness and sorrow in its wake. Starring Mikael Persbrandt alongside Trine Dyrholm and Ulrich Thomsen, the film flits from small-town Denmark to an African refugee camp throughout.
Norwegian action thriller Headhunters is based on Jo Nesbø’s novel of the same name, and stars Aksel Hennie and Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in the lead roles. The film follows a successful headhunter whop risks everything in order to obtain a valuable painting owned by a former mercenary, and successfully merges thriller with comedy. The film boasts the statistic of being the highest-grossing Norwegian film of all time.
A Hijacking (2012)
Tobias Lindholm’s Danish thriller (which he both wrote and directed) alternates between events occurring on a hijacked ship and those happening in the shipping company’s office back in Denmark. Many threw praise on the film’s ability to avert ‘conventional thrills’ steering the film into the direction of critical acclaim.
The Norwegian thriller Pioneer follows Petter, a professional offshore diver during the ’70s, tasked with laying the first petroleum pipe in the North Sea. Following a tragic accident during a test dive, he discovers that his superiors are attempting to put a smokescreen on the true events and that his life is at stake. This well-received conspiracy embraces the claustrophobic nature of the setting to deliver something altogether more thrilling.
Pioneer is released on DVD and Blu-ray on August 4, 2014 from Arrow Films.