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Two Great Danes: A Hijacking and The Hunt

Two films, each from Denmark, have arrived in consecutive weeks

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A Hijacking or The Hunt? You needn't choose between them. The happenstance of two Danish films opening on local screens one week apart is a rarity, but each film is gripping in its own ways. And though they are strikingly different, they have one thing in common: both were written by Tobias Lindholm.

It has been nearly a year since I saw both films at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and not until I watched both again recently in anticipation of their Boise debuts at The Flicks (A Hijacking opens Friday, Aug. 9; The Hunt opens Friday, Aug. 16) was I reminded how fine they both are.

A Hijacking, which was also directed by Lindholm, is a contemporary drama of sea piracy. Instead of an overblown, overly paced action flick, A Hijacking is the harrowing chronicle of how, more often than not, there is no heroic rescue at sea. Negotiating ransom with terrorists is a stark 21st century reality for those conglomerates that choose to navigate commercial vessels through international waters. In fact, the film never attempts to deconstruct the moral fabric of its villains. Their motive is simple: money and lots of it. Soon after commandeering a Danish freighter, Somali pirates radio the ship's owners demanding $15 million or the ship will be filled with the blood of its crew.

But the ship's owners are Copenhagen-based executives accustomed to delicate negotiations, using finesse and nuance to get what they want. Their inability to truly grasp single-minded terrorism adds to the film's dread.

Hours pass, then weeks and months, as the excruciating negotiations continue. No end-of-the-film spoilers here. You have to see it for yourself.

In screenwriter Lindholm's dramatically different story, The Hunt, the protagonist is Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), a passive kindergarten teacher in a tiny Danish hunting community.

When Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), the young daughter of Lucas' best friend, makes up a false story about Lucas, a child psychologist pries deeper. Klara's confusion about the psychologist's leading questions results in an over-analysis by adults in Klara's life, which in turn devolves into whispers, accusation and scandal. When Klara attempts to recant the falsehood, it's too late--mob rule has taken control of their village and Lucas is in the hunters' crosshairs.

There is much to admire about The Hunt--particularly director Thomas Vinterberg's measured editing and perfect marriage of natural sound and image.

But above all, there is Mikkelsen's Lucas. You might know Mikkelsen as the villain Le Chiffre in Casino Royale or as the title character in the new NBC drama Hannibal. But in the role of Lucas--which earned Mikkelsen the Best Actor Award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival--he has truly become what The New York Times called "a face of the resurgent Danish cinema." It's a transformative performance.

Make certain to catch both films: A Hijacking and The Hunt make for a superb Scandinavian double feature.

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