Saturday, August 04, 2012

Headhunters (Hodejegerne)


By the time this film reaches its conclusion, you can just about tell that Hollywood would have knocked on the producer's doors, and extended a contract for rights to a remake. With the success of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Hollywood is probably now turning its sights to Scandinavia, and this Norwegian film has all the ingredients that is set to thrill audiences ready for a nice mystery that will leave you guessing just how the protagonist will be reeling out of the troubles that he had committed.

The bulk of the credit goes to Aksel Hennie, who stars as the protagonist Roger Brown, the go-to person should anyone need a job reference. The top dog headhunter in his industry, with arrogance and swagger to boot, his opening monologue about Reputation is so seductive that you'll hang on to his every word. But Jo Nesbø's novel is more than meets the eye, and Brown has a separate occupation. With his contacts and multitudes of interviews set up with potential candidates for C-level jobs, opportunity comes in setting up meetings, and then robbing them blind of valuable art, with counterfeits in their place so that his handiwork won't go detected for some time. Brown readily admits he's overspending, with expenses all going into impressing his wife Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund), who is extremely high maintenance.

What would seem a routine open and shut attempt with his latest job seeker, Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), turned out to be quite the nightmare, and the film kicks into high gear when Brown suspects his wife having an affair with this strapping man, a one time mercenary soldier who had found better fortune as a now-retrenched CEO of a technology company, and who has a long lost painting stored in his Norwegian home. Again, Nesbø's story throws us a line, and hooks us into what would turn out to be an extremely engaging, in-your-seat cat and mouse game and battle of wits between these two men, which brings to mind the definition of the title.

It's clearly segregated into three acts, as it explores the pride before the downfall, brought about by underestimating one's enemy, and not taking precautions to finish any job, thanks to complacency. Horror fans would like to take note of the middle act, as director Morten Tyldum surely adapted the techniques from understanding the technicalities and workings in keeping suspense on an all time high, never letting up in pace, and keeping the narrative moving at breakneck speed. It plays on our fears of being hunted, and cornered, with desperate measures being called upon for survival, and all these while trying to piece together just who, and more importantly, why, are developments being much against the favour of the protagonist, and to witness how anyone can wriggle their way out of the fix presented.

Headhunters is plenty of fun, in a dark and bleak sort of way, that dwells into the deep recesses of the twisted. Surprises pop up when you think you got a grip on what's going to happen next, and catches you offguard. And what's really appreciated is that you'd never feel like you're being strung along conveniently throughout the story, with clues and setups being established properly, together with a taut finale that will leave you breathless, but satisfied and rewarded. Headhunters is as close to the perfect thriller as you can get. A definite recommendation, and inclusion to anyone's shortlist of the year's best!

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