Directed by: Morten Tyldum
Written by: Lars Gudmestad &Ulf Ryberg based on the novel by Jo Nesbø.
Starring: Aksel Hennie (Roger Brown), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Clas Greve), Synnøve Macody Lund (Diana Brown), Eivind Sander (Ove Kjikerud), Julie R. Ølgaard (Lotte), Kyrre Haugen Sydness (Jeremias Lander), Reidar Sørensen (Brede Sperre), Nils Jørgen Kaalstad (Stig).
One of the reasons why we see so few great thrillers these days is because audiences have become hard to surprise. Everyone has seen countless thrillers, and most of them hit the same plot points over and over again – and even when the plot twists, in ways in which the filmmakers feel will be shocking, they really aren’t that surprising anymore. Audiences have grown to become wary of thrillers – to mistrust them, and always be on the lookout for the next twist. In short, they have gotten good at expecting the unexpected – and figuring out a movies supposedly complex, twisted plot well before the characters in the film do. That’s what makes Headhunters such a refreshing movie – it’s that rare thriller that from one moment to the next, kept me guessing.
This Norwegian thriller stars Aksel Hennie as Roger Brown, a short man with one hell of a head of hair. He has a good job as a corporate head-hunter, but that’s not enough for him. He has a gorgeous, statuesque wife (Synnøve Macody Lund), and feels he needs to be able to give her anything she ever wanted, or she will leave him. He showers her with gifts, but refuses to give her what she really wants – a child. In order to fund this constant spending, he moonlights as an art thief. He breaks into to people’s houses when they aren’t around, replaces their masterpieces with a knockoff, and then sells them on the black market. He is an expert thief, and his plan works well. When he meets Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a former Swedish soldier, who made a fortune in private security, in town to renovate his deceased grandma’s apartment, and discovers he has a long lost painting worth around $100 million, he thinks his big score has finally came in. Of course, things go horribly wrong, and Roger has to go on the run, with Clas hot on his trail. To give away anymore would be criminal.
Headhunters reminded me of two filmmakers – the first being Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock, who directed many of the greatest thrillers in movie history, also had a sense of humor running through them. He succeeded at making films that have dazzling visual set pieces, which keep you on the edge of your seat, not because of violence, but because of anticipation – wondering just what was going to happen next. There is no better example of this in a recent film than a scene where Clas tracks down Roger, and he has to hide in the last place you would want to. Director Morten Tyldum first finds the dark humor to this scene, that Hitchcock would have loved, and then ratchets it up the tension to an almost unbearable degree. The second filmmaking duo the film reminded me of is the Coen brothers, because of some of the absurdist touches the movie has – including a chase scene that would sound ridiculous if I explained it here, but somehow works.
The movie piles on the information in one scene after the next, so we’re never quite sure what is going to become useful information, and what is essentially a red herring. Right up until the finale, the movie keeps you guessing, keeps you wondering how this could possibly turn out. The ending of the movie doesn’t give Roger the finale he deserves – he is, after all, not a good guy – but the ending the audience wants for him. Despite yourself, you may just find yourself loving this art thief with a Napoleon complex. You root for this guy, and as a result, Headhunters is one of the best thrillers you will see this year.