Morten Tyldum’s latest film Headhunters once again proves Scandinavian filmmaking talent. Based on Norwegian writer Jo Nesbø’s novel, it tells the story of a company executive, who further provides for his expensive lifestyle by stealing works of art. The film’s success in Norway has drawn the attention of Hollywood studios and rumour has it that an English-language version is on the way. This won’t be much of a surprise after the remakes of Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In and the first instalment of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy directed by David Fincher. In fact, one of the possible choices for a screenwriter might be British journalist, Sacha Gervasi.
The success of the story is its combination of a gripping thriller with comedic moments. In the opening we are led into the atmosphere of the story by the protagonist’s voiceover. He is Roger Brown; a recruiter of executive talent for successful companies. However, in order to afford his lavish tastes and the art gallery of his wife Diana (Synnove Macody Lund) he is also a master art-thief, who provides a detailed list of tips how to get away with such a theft. Roger’s self-assuredness makes for an interesting character, and the audience is never sure whether to like him or not. Even though later in the film he is betrayed (several times), almost squashed by two rather big detectives, falls of a cliff and nearly dies in a car crash, you are never completely sympathetic with him, because he constantly tries to be someone he isn’t.
…the protagonist’s polished life goes completely wrong…
Self-conscious of the fact that his beautiful, blonde and educated wife Diana can leave him for someone who is at least as tall as her at any moment, he sees this fear turn to reality when he meets Clas Greve. Played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau of Game of Thrones, Clas is handsome, half-Dutch, half-Norwegian, obviously very successful and working for an IT surveillance company. Observing the close relationship Clas and Diana develop, Roger quickly decides to steal Clas’s Rubens painting, worth millions. This is where the protagonist’s polished life goes completely wrong in what is both a fast-paced and slightly comical turn of events. Roger’s situation goes from bad to worse, when Greve (also an ex-military man) starts hunting him as one would hunt a terrorist in the desert. Confused why Clas is doing that (not that he doesn’t have his reasons), Roger needs not only to survive his ingenious high-tech methods but also to get even after he finds out the truth.
Headhunters is an interesting example of the action-thriller genre. Its priorities are not quick and complicated action sequences, which no one understands. Instead of being simply black or white, the characters are well-developed and have their own faults. They have created their own mess and they need to find their way out of it in the same elaborate manner.