Headhunters (2011)

HeadhuntersCast: Aksel Hennie, Synnøve Macody Lund, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Director: Morten Tyldum
Awards: Nominated for a BAFTA, won a Saturn award for Best International Film

Headhunters is an edge-of-your-seat Norwegian thriller based on the eponymous novel by best-selling author, Jo Nesbø. With more plot twists and turns than a rattlesnake in heat, this dark Scandinavian gem ignites the screen like the pyromaniacal love child of the The Fugitive and Die Hard, with shades of Hitchcock thrown in for good measure.

The deliciously ambiguous title refers in the first instance to corporate headhunter, Roger, who moonlights as an art thief to sustain the expensive lifestyle he has created for himself and his wife, a statuesque beauty of note. The diminutive Roger assuages his fear of losing his beautiful wife by providing all the trappings of luxury that he imagines will keep her at his side.

When he is introduced to a potential prospect for an executive position, a Danish businessman called Clas Greve, who also happens to own a priceless Rubens painting, Roger’s machinations go into two-flies-with-one-swat overdrive. A decision that leads him down a rabbit hole of paranoia and fear after he realises that Greve, an ex-mercenary, seems to be playing a game of his own. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister in the HBO series Game of Thrones) is excellent in his portrayal of the menacingly smooth operator Greve.

The film does a wonderful job of leading the viewer from one anxiety ridden climax to another, so much so that the tension becomes almost unbearable. Just when it seems that the denouement is a forgone conclusion, a new development drags you further along at breakneck pace. Another pleasant surprise is the very subtle and deeply dark snatches of humour that permeate the movie. A very tricky tightrope for any thriller to walk, but one that Headhunters negotiates with a supreme sense of balance.

As thrillers go Headhunters is a refreshing and gripping addition to the genre. Now let’s just hope and pray that Mark Wahlberg’s planned American remake never sees the light of day.

Watch the trailer: