Headhunters is an adaptation of Jo Nesbo’s book of the same name - the first of Nesbo’s Scandavian crime fiction thrillers not to feature the hugely successful Harry Hole.
Filmed in Norwegian and Danish with English subtitles, Headhunters sees Roger Bown (Aksel Hennie), headhunter by day and prolific art thief by night, risk everything for the biggest heist of his life.
The opening to Headhunters is skilful. It begins with Roger Brown narrating his simple rules for a successful art theft. He tells us about his one key insecurity - that he is just 1.68 metres tall - and discloses a fear that he cannot keep his beautiful wife by any other means than money.
Even that is at risk, because what Roger’s wife wants most of all is a child, and Roger confesses to us that he is unwilling to give her this.
Headhunters’ script writers excel in this opening sequence, getting the audience to promptly question what Roger is so afraid of.
In fact, all the elements in Headhunters’ opening - the script, the performances and the direction - give an immediate impression of Roger’s flaws.
From the very beginning, the audience can see Roger’s actions are a front and it becomes ever more compelling watching Roger discover this for himself.
When Roger gets the chance of a theft worth up to 100 million, his life quickly unravels. Actor, Aksel Hennie’s delivery of Roger’s jealousy, nerves and fear is impeccable as he is pursued by Clas Greve (Game of Thrones star, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), whose past work in counter terrorism has left him with advanced skills in tracking.
As Roger is backed into a corner, Hennie conjures panic and cunning in equal measure, making it impossible to guess Roger’s next move.
And, in his more agitated scenes, Roger’s actions are backed by surround sound breathing noises, immersing the audience in his anxiety.
Synnove Macody Lund is also persuasive as Roger’s wife, Diana. Diana is an art lover, which heightens Headhunters’ tension, as the audience assumes what Roger does to keep in her fine jewels would actually be abhorrent to her.
It is clear that Headhunters’ is founded on a story that is both well developed and splendidly put together.
Headhunters’ is immensely suspenseful. It is a suspense that builds up gradually, along with the amount of violence and gore, so that Headhunters gets steadily more disturbing without allowing its audience to become accustomed to it. Director, Morten Tyldum, brings an attention to detail that makes for incredible intensity, particularly in Headhunters’ action sequences. And scenes which could have encouraged humour if not dealt with carefully, are made horrifying and unsettling. But, if there is anything at all to criticise in Headhunters, it is perhaps that its ending is a little too neat.
Don’t be put off by Headhunters’ foreign film status. It’s suspense is not diminished by it being delivered in a foreign language and, instead, it is one of the most powerful thrillers of recent years.
Running Time: 100 minutes
Verdict: Must See