One of my favorite things about each movie year is coming across something completely new and unexpected. Movies that I had never heard of and that were never on my radar, yet caught me completely by surprise. Netflix has done that very thing with their new foreign language flick “The Trip”, an impossible to label Norwegian film from director and co-writer Tommy Wirkola.
I call “The Trip” impossible to label because it can’t be put into any box or assigned to any one genre. It’s a movie that defies any and all expectations and is full of surprises both narratively and visually. It leaps back-and-forth between genres never staying in the same place for very long. To give you an idea, it sometimes plays like a serious marital drama and other times like a pitch-black comedy. One second it’s a crime thriller and then it hits you with gruesome body horror. There’s even a terrifying “Funny Games” sequence complete with the emotional and physical savagery of that Hanake film.
Noomi Rapace and Aksel Hennie play Lisa and Lars, a dysfunctional couple on the outs who set out on a weekend trip to the mountains where they own a rustic lakeside cabin built by Lars’ father. Lars is a dissatisfied director who’s stuck making cheap television soap operas. “You’re no Hitchcock”, his cantankerous father (Nils Ole Oftebro) gruffly reminds him. Lisa is a struggling theater actress who loves performing but has recently been turned down for several big parts. Both are frustrated; both are unhappy. But at least they have each other, right?
So they head to the mountains for a much needed getaway, yet they can’t even make it to the cabin without an argument breaking out. It quickly becomes clear that these two despise each other. But maybe this trip is exactly what they need. Could they end up where most couples do in movies like this? You know, rekindling an old flame and rediscovering that love that first brought them together? Well, they’ll first have to overcome a pretty significant obstacle. As it turns out, both have come to cabin with plans of killing their spouse. See what I mean? That’s a pretty big obstacle.
I don’t want to say more because this truly is a case of ‘the less you know the better’. One of the film’s biggest strengths is its ability to broadside its audience with something they never see it coming. It begins practically as soon as they arrive at the cabin. “Home Sweet Home”, Lisa wryly says signaling that we’re in for a twisted ride. Both lead performances are strong especially from Rapace who has an often underrated ability to express emotion without uttering a single word.
Let me stress, “The Trip” isn’t for the faint of heart. Some scenes are extremely intense and the further it goes the gorier the movie gets. Yet it’s all fused with this wicked sense of humor that often pops up in the most unexpected moments. There were times where I was physically jolted by the violence and other times where I caught myself laughing out loud. What’s most amazing is how Wirkola keeps it all together. Not perfectly (the poop gag is certainly a low point), but more than enough to keep his audience entertained and always wondering what’s coming next. “The Trip” is now streaming on Netflix.