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Headhunters

Film Five Stars
Headhunters was by far the star of the Glasgow Film Festival this year for me. I have not read the Jo Nesbø novel from which the story is adapted and so I came to the film with no preconceptions or expectations for the film, but from what I had seen through the blurb, some stills and a trailer it was looking to be a stylish thriller with some unusual elements.

The film is set to be remade in Hollywood, which is usually a sign that the original is good but by no means an indication that the English language remake will be. As usual in these cases I'd recommend watching the original first and that holds especially true with Headhunters, let me explain why.

Plot.pngHeadhunters.jpgHeadhunters follows the main character of Roger Brown who by day is a corporate head-hunter, finding and grooming the names for the big corporate jobs and earning some tidy commission. He's well respected and talented people and corporations turn to him to find the role or the talent that they need. His lifestyle is rich and extravagant, his wife is stunningly beautiful and sophisticated, and he carries an air of confidence and arrogance that suits his life. However things are not what they seem for by night he's an art thief who steals expensive works to fund his lifestyle and keep his wife in the manner to which she has become accustomed.

His latest engagement at work reveals a man who has a hidden painting that could be worth millions, and so Roger sets about planning to steal it, however he never banked on the fact that the man is an ex-mercenary and a ruthless one at that. Roger Brown's life is about to become more complicated than even he could dream of.


TheFilm.pngThe story of Headhunters is really well conceived and written, I presume that most of this comes from the Jo Nesbø novel, but it has been translated to film extremely well. Not only have they delivered a strong thriller that builds a strong and tension filled story but they've also created some engaging and interesting characters, weaving in drama and some elements of humour at the same time as keeping the focus on the core of the thriller and building to some great twists and turns that you don't always see coming.

So often these days we see thrillers that have become so predictable following the standard paths and not trying to misdirect the audience to deliver something new, but as I am fond of saying European film-makers do seem to make the best thrillers, managing to deliver clever storylines and plots that don't follow the expected path, and Headhunters is a prime example of just that.

The writing is the core of a thriller for me, and if the script doesn't capture the key factors of the genre then no amount of clever direction or editing can save it. With Headhunters that script is delivered and then some and everything else about the film just adds to the quality. The film delivers from start to finish and during the film there were moments where I was genuinely unsure about how the story would turn next and which way the characters would decide to go.

That uncertainty was a key aspect to the film, and for me is a key aspect of a successful thriller. I felt as though I was continually following behind the characters right to the final moments even though I could see the pieces coming together they just didn't make sense until the film brought them together.

So often with thrillers these days I can see the pieces coming and make the connections before the film wants me to, this is often down to the fact that thrillers are dumbed down, although to be fair sometimes it's because I've seen so many I know the way the standard plot will go. Genuinely though with Headhunters I didn't find myself leaping ahead of the characters, I was with them discovering their story as they did, and that's the key to staying connected with a thriller.

I did mention that there are some elements of humour in the film too, these don't take the form of some unsubtle joke that's been overly staged for the camera, but rather humour that forms out of the situations the characters find themselves in, subtlety created moments that ride right alongside the dramatic. For the ideal example of this watch the sequence where Roger is trying to find transport to escape the mercenary and is greeted by a guard dog. While you'll find yourself laughing at the time, you'll look back on the elements and realise that it was all rather tense and a surprisingly adult moment that through careful editing and control of what is shown on camera, produces laughter rather than shock and revulsion and at the same time never overpowering the tension building through the chase.

There's another layer to the story that broadens the film even more, not only is it a tense, dramatic thriller with elements of humour but there's also a strong emotional thread to the story too. We see some rather interesting insights revealed of Roger as the film takes us closer to the real character, moving from the high-flying head-hunter, peeling through the layers right to the core of the character, laid bare as he is with the reunion with his wife. There's a scene in the latter stages of the film where all those layers are gone and both he and his wife open up to each other in a surprisingly emotional way. It managed to get right to me and added another dimension to my relationship with the main characters and the story.

The leads in the film are all strong and Aksel Hennie who plays Roger Brown plays his role perfectly on all the levels required of the character through his journey. His adversary Clas Greve played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is equally strong and charismatic and together with the way his character is written never lets him leap into the world of the fantastical and the bizarre but keeps him very real and human.

Headhunters is not only slick in the writing and acting department but it looks great too. The cinematography is strong and the set design helps build a fantastic looking film. There's also a lot to be said for the editing and filming which, like the previously mentioned scene with the dog, manages to show us just enough to become part of the storytelling and never too much to reveal too much or rush the story.


Overall.pngHeadhunters is a joy to watch and is a thriller that fires on all cylinders. It doesn't just deliver the dramatic and the film-makers have managed to write and develop a much broader, cleverer and more entertaining film than you might expect. They've created a thriller that will engage you on many levels, connect you with the main characters, even make you feel for them and keep you running behind or along with them and their story, never ahead.

Morten Tyldum, Lars Gudmestad, Ulf Ryberg and indeed Jo Nesbø, have delivered a rich and stylish thriller that deserves to be seen before the remake arrives, and Filmstalker recommends you do.



Buy the novel or film from Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com
UK IMDB Film Details




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Comments

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