I’m a huge fan of Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen. Known as one of those familiar faces, Mikkelsen is an immensely talented actor who has shown a tremendous range. He’s tackled everything from period action pictures to emotional dramas; mythological fantasy to being a James Bond villain. He’s an undeniable presence in whatever he is in and his success, particularly in his native Denmark, is well deserved.
All of that should help explain my excitement for his film “The Hunt”. Original released overseas in 2012, “The Hunt” received a great response with most of the praise going to Mikkelsen’s performance. In fact, Mikkelsen would go on to win the Best Actor award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. With all of that in mind and with my expectations through the roof, naturally I was expecting something special and that’s exactly what writer-director Thomas Vinterberg gives us.
“The Hunt” is that rare film that aims to engage us emotionally while at the same time challenging those very emotions. It spurs self-inspection and analysis by casting spotlights on some ugly but very real elements of society. It causes us to question how we would feel or respond amid certain difficult situations. And it’s all woven within the fabric of a riveting narrative that is some of the best storytelling I’ve seen in a while. It’s a story that’s uncomfortable and may cause us to squirm, but sometimes that’s exactly what we need to do.
Mikkelsen plays Lucas, a divorced kindergarten teacher living in a close-knit Danish town. When Lucas angers a 5-year old student (who also happens to be the daughter of Lucas’ best friend) the young girl goes to the kindergarten supervisor and accuses Lucas of sexual misconduct. Of course the supervisor must act but she does so under the presumption of absolute guilt. Her constant mishandling of the situation sparks an inferno of canards and assumption which sweeps through the town fueling a vitriolic reaction from the community. There’s no hunt for truth. Lucas becomes the hunted and there is no fact or clue that will pull him out of some people’s crosshairs.
“The Hunt” creates a striking antithesis. On the surface we see a lovely tight-knit community during the holiday season. Festive family get-togethers and Christmas parties create an aura of small town charm. But underneath lies a conflict rooted in reality that sees otherwise decent people doing and saying horrible things. It would be easy to say we hate these people, but as heinous as their actions are, would we have acted or thought differently when faced with such an emotionally charged situation? That’s a question the movie tackles head-on.
The utterly brilliant screenplay is both smart and provocative yet even it needed a capable lead actor to make it truly effective. Mads Mikkelsen more than fulfills that need. It’s a very restrained performance but also one of the most powerful in recent memory. The layers of persecution brought by the town’s rush to judgement takes more and more of a toll on Lucas and Mikkelsen draws out every detail with absolute precision. It’s a master class in dramatic acting and easily one of the best performances of the year. There is some good supporting work as well but Mikkelsen is the true star of the picture.
“The Hunt” can be difficult to watch. It’s confrontational and unflinching. Yet its thought-provoking questions are soaked in realism and relevance. But this is also a film made with expert craftsmanship. The script is intelligent and penetrating. The pacing is perfect. The camerawork is vivid and fluid. Then there is the lead performance from Mikkelsen – a true highlight of the movie year. It took me a while to finally see “The Hunt” but it was well worth the wait. It’s not a film that will leave you with the warm and fuzzies, but it does cut to the heart and it is expert filmmaking through and through.
Great review, Keith. It’s good to hear you give it two enthusiastic thumbs up. I’ll take smart screenplays over special effect hyper-films any day.
Thanks Cindy. It’s a tremendous screenplay. Smart, challenging, and emotionally charged. Very well done.
Yep! No arguments here. I’ve been a huge fan of Mads for years and hopefully this movie has brought him to more people’s attention.
He’s such a good actor.
Will be watching this later this week, with the same anticipation. Hopefully I enjoy it just as much as you do.
I think you will. It’s a tough watch at times since it deals with pretty heavy subject matter. But it’s so good.
Yeah. Though watch? I can handle that. If it is also good. 🙂
Everyone I know (who’s seen it) loves this one. So I’m guessing it’s also good. 🙂
Tough watch but in a good way.
Top review man. For some reason I thought you’d already reviewed this, dunno why! Loved this film, definitely one of my favourites of the year.
It was high on my list to see but the stupid theater here only kept it for one week. Really angered me. But I finally saw it and it definitely lived up to my expectations.
Good review Keith. Mads really surprised the hell out of me here. He shows that as nice of a guy he may seem, there’s still a shadow of doubt in our mind, as well as his own and it keeps you wondering the whole time.
There is a hint of that especially in his reluctance to cry out his innocence. It adds a great element to it.
Quality review. I really need to watch, I’ve heard nothing but great things about it.If you enjoy Mads (who doesn’t) then I recommend you watch Hannibal.
Thanks a lot. I knew he was in Hannibal but I haven’t watched it. I have a hard time investing in too many TV shows.
I finally get to read your thoughts on this Keith and I couldn’t agree more. Such a hard hitting and brilliant executed film. I too gave it 4.5 but still wonder why i didn’t give it top marks. Film of the year so far.
Thanks for reading. Man I am with you. I’m trying to ask myself why it doesn’t deserve 5 stars and I’m struggling for a good reason. It’s simply brilliant throughout and hopefully more people will realize how great Mads Mikkelsen really is. Such a talent.
Yeah, like we’ve said before, Mikkelsen is a special talent and he thoroughly deserved the Cannes prize for this. Why didn’t we give it 5 stars again?… LOL
And you know what, I get more and more annoyed when I think that he received no Golden Globe nomination. Mark my words, the same thing will happen from the Oscars.
Nice review. I caught a bit of The Hunt on a plane ride but what I saw I was thoroughly impressed by. I rented this, so I’ll have to check it out soon.
Anxious to hear your thoughts. I think it’s tremendous and Mikkelsen gives a stand out performance.
Terrific review Keith, glad you finally saw this. Mads Mikkelsen was utterly brilliant here and therefore grossly snubbed by the Globes! “It causes us to question how we would feel or respond amid certain difficult situations.” You’re absolutely right, it definitely made me ponder the whole time I was watching it. This film definitely stayed with you for a long time for that reason.
Thanks so much Ruth. I love a smart and sharp screenplay and this is a good example of that. It truly is challenging not just due to the content but because of how it makes us reflect on ourselves. Loved it.
Honestly, its a film like this that really makes you hate people.
Excellent review, very detailed too. The character work in The Hunt is superb, with everyone in the ensemble giving organic, emotional performances to match Mikkelsen’s commanding performance.
Glad you liked it.
I really did. Thanks for reading. The is a jarring realism to its portrayal of people. Unsettling but very grounded. And like you said, the performances are outstanding.
Awesome that you finally got a chance to see this one! The film was very good but Mikkelsen’s work was exceptional – it’s still my Best Actor win this year.
It took a long enough but I finally got to see it. I really loved it but you’re right, Mikkelsen’s performance is stand out.
Great review Keith. I am glad to see that you liked this, is was a phenomenal piece of film, and clearly highlighted why I choose dramas more often than not!
Oh I loved it. It was so good. Incredible writing and the performances were solid. I’m just glad I finally got to see it. It was so high on my list of movies to see. But it was never showing in this area. Finally was able to catch it on demand.
I am so glad. It was well worth the wait this side too, seeing as it was not released here. It really just hooked me from the get-go.
I finally got the chance to see this last week, and it blew me away. Easily one of my favorite films of the year. Great review, Keith.
Thanks a lot! I loved it. Such a sharp and piercing picture. Thanks for reading!!!
Very good review of an excellent film. It is a subject which could have turned out into a bad movie, but it was handled with care. The reality is that these type of cases happen in real life as well as the documentary Witchhunt proves, with some men having been wrongfully sentenced and who lost many years of their life sitting in jails.
Thanks! You’re right, it’s a difficult subject. The movie is very responsible with its handling of it but it also takes no shortcuts. I think that’s a big reason it’s so powerful.
Thanks for reading!
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