Posts Tagged ‘Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’

Oblivion (2013)

May 15, 2013 2 comments

Oblivion poster

I suppose Oblivion (2013) makes a change. Instead of dealing with the crash-bang defeat of an alien invasion and stopping the cameras rolling before Earth gets to do the clean-up operation, removing all the damaged and destroyed buildings and the bodies of the aliens we managed to slaughter, this film starts off with the notion that the aliens turned up and attacked the moon. Don’t you just love science fiction. Knowing they could never hope to defeat Earth’s military might, they took on the one target they knew they could beat. Oh, and of course, substantial destruction of the moon changed the gravitational effect of said moon and there were earthquakes and tsunamis down here that pretty much did in Earth’s defences. Pretty sneaky, huh? Except the military had enough nuclear firepower to defeat these pesky creatures when they did land. The price of Earth’s victory? Contamination on an epic scale.

At this point, i.e. about two minutes into the film, we get a major inconsistency in the narrative. If Earth was seriously damaged by all this, how come we could develop the technology to build this superduper space station and go into residence around Titan? This is clearly beyond our abilities, even without the odd high tide washing over cities. More importantly, if Earth didn’t beat all these scavenger beings and they hang around still attacking our hero, Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), why not get more systematic to exterminate them before settling into a life in outer space to wait for the planet to heal? Failure on this front means they breed while we’re away and can build defences to stop us coming back. We’re also immediately shown that “they” are messing with our hero’s memories. He keeps getting flashbacks to the pre-invasion Earth and sees this dominant image of a woman. This must be some imperfection from the last security memory wipe which occurred almost five years ago. Except Jack is obviously an unreliable narrator and we can’t trust anything he claims to remember. His minder (and lover), Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), is apparently there to keep Jack on mission and acting within the “rules” laid down by Sally (Melissa Leo), the liaison officer in command from the space station.

Olga Kurylenko and Tom Cruise in the mile high club

Olga Kurylenko and Tom Cruise in the mile high club

So we hypothesise that the aliens won and, having wiped Jack’s memories, are now using him to repair their drones while they steal our water. The images of the beached ships and odd bits of building left exposed are quite impressive and confirm destruction on an epic scale. Assuming this is replicated across the planet, it’s inconceivable humanity survived in any numbers. As you would therefore expect, this homely drone maintenance engineer and his consort believe they are the only folk left on Earth and they have one of these idyllic homes perched on top of a mountain while he completes the establishment of the drone network (except the trailer has already shown us that Beech (Morgan Freeman) is alive and well and living in semidarkness so he can see where the end of his cigar is to light it when he strikes a match). His sidekick is Sykes (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who looks difficult to kill. OK so what’s the verdict after ten minutes? It seems Earth has also developed antigravity because these drones move around without regard to little constraints like mass and momentum. There’s also this nifty flying thingamagummy for Jack to patrol his allocated quadrant which is also way beyond anything we could have developed.

For the record, not one bit of the “science” in this science fiction film makes any sense. If aliens blew up the moon, we could have a ring like Saturn which would be really cool when the sun shines on it or there could be a big dust cloud which would have substantially the same mass as the moon in solid form, i.e. have the same gravitational effect. If the moon was pushed away, the sun would take over as the dominant gravitational force and we’d get high tide at noon every day. Oh, and people would stop changing into wolves when the moon was full. The assertion Earth would have been pulled to pieces because of this sneak attack is ludicrous. The only point of this scenario is to justify the montage of CGI images that provide a context for the actors to say their lines which, for the most part, are ditchwater dull and make little sense.

Morgan Freemen and Nikolaj Coster Waldau looking stealthy

Morgan Freemen and Nikolaj Coster Waldau looking stealthy

Perhaps we can save the film by dignifying it as an SFnal examination as to the meaning of identity. You know the kind of thing. We are the sum of all we remember so, if there’s an artificial block on our memories, our character changes. Why? Because if we can no longer remember how we reacted in the past, experience stops guiding us in the present. Except all this film does is prove these damn fool aliens don’t have a mind machine to beat the mind of Tom Cruise. He’s back in the past remembering football games and this woman on top of the Empire State Building. You just can’t keep the mind of a good hero down. It bears mentioning that the main plot set-up and twist is the same as in Moon (2009) which was not unlike Eutamnesia (2000). It’s difficult to be genuinely original when there have been so many books and films on this theme. So perhaps we can say the CGI is great and the action exciting? Well, the first fight sequence is chaotic and the behaviour of the drone makes little sense. Then an old piece of technology crashes and, after forcing the drones to pull away, Jack rescues Julia (Olga Kurylenko). She’s been in suspended animation for sixty (or more) years and, yes, she’s the girl he keeps remembering. What? Earth had suspended animation technology? Perhaps they also had stealth technology as well.

At this point, lots of stuff happens and then it ends. Perhaps this would not have been too bad if it had only been a ninety minute film but, at one-hundred-and-twenty-four minutes, it feels like Purgatory. It’s an excuse to watch Tom Cruise ride his motorbike, fly this cool thingamagummy and shoot at whatever moves (and do environmentally sustainable things in a patch of jungle). Andrea Riseborough is there to look good and prove that the alien mind machine works on women. Olga Kurylenko is there as the “other woman” and to perpetuate the species. Morgan Freeman lights up the screen and his cigar for about ten minutes. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is effectively invisible. For me Oblivion is appropriately named because that’s where the film should be consigned.

Headhunters or Hodejegerne (2011)

Based on the stand-alone novel by Jo Nesbo, Headhunters or Hodejegerne (2011) takes us to a world where reputation is everything. Let’s face it, even if you go back to the school yard where everyone present is picked to play in teams, your reputation is either made or unmade by who chooses you. If you’re the first choice of the cool captain, you bask in glory. If you’re the last one, the one no-one wanted on their team, you wish you went to another school. Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is a man of impeccable reputation. He’s the top headhunter, the man who picks the next generation of leaders for Norwegian business. With his endorsement, a man can be slotted in as CEO of Pathfinder, Norway’s top technology company. Unfortunately, interviews are not going well because the candidates are not playing hard to get. They show no class by throwing themselves at the job. If they had the right reputation, they would wait to be asked. Then along comes the perfect candidate. Meet Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). He’s been the CEO of a Dutch technology company but is only in Norway to tidy up some old family business. Naturally, he has an impeccable reputation and he’s not available, unless someone like Roger Brown was to ask him, of course.

Aksel Hennie doing his best to stay cool


There’s one other feature you need to understand. Roger Brown is slightly shorter than average and is in a marriage with a tall, beautiful woman (although he also has a mistress, Lotte (Julie R. Ølgaard). Diana Brown (Synnøve Macody Lund) is the ultimate trophy wife. When she walks into the room, everyone turns to watch her pass by. Roger is deeply insecure because of his height and, to keep himself in her good books, he spends money on her like water. Their home is worth millions and filled with every possible luxury. They both drive top-of-the-range cars, and she has every possible designer label item she might ever want to wear or carry. There’s only one small problem. She wants children and he doesn’t. This causes friction and is very much on Roger’s mind. To settle her down, again, he buys her some gold earrings. This would be another good investment if Roger actually earned enough to pay for all this sugar. Sadly, he doesn’t.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Synnøve Macody Lund discussing art


To cover the cost of keeping Diana sweet, he’s become a top art thief. Early on, he placed a reliable man, Ove Kjikerud (Eivind Sander), in the top local security company which has surveillance cameras and security systems in the homes of the rich and wealthy all over Norway. Using remote overrides, Ove can admit Roger to any address on the company’s books and wipe all recordings of his presence. How does Roger know what to steal? Well he does interview all the top business people in Norway. This gives him an excuse to ask about their interests and their movements. When he identifies a target and knows when the house will be empty, he has a copy made, and enters with maximum precautions to prevent any DNA evidence from being left. Most never notice the switch and the sales of this plundered loot finances the marriage. Now Diana tells Roger that Clas has an original Rubens.

Eivind Sander taking a moment in his shoot-out


It’s always strange to see how fragile life can be. One minute you can feel you’re in control of the situation and then, without warning, you face uncertainty. If Roger had not loved his wife, if the question of pregnancy had not been on his mind, he would never have taken out his mobile phone when he saw the children playing. That proved to be a very fateful call. Indeed, it precipitated a real crisis. The rest of the film poses and answers just two simple questions. What will people do to protect themselves? and Can you rely on people to act consistently with their reputations?

Julie R. Ølgaard asking for too much


Without question, Headhunters or Hodejegerne is the best thriller I’ve seen so far this year. Indeed, it may be the best film I’ve seen so far this year. It’s wonderfully precise in the way the plot dovetails together. There’s no detail too small, no incident too trivial to be forgotten. Everything comes back with renewed significance later on. Lars Gudmestad and Ulf Ryberg have done a wonderful job on the script and Morten Tyldum has produced a lean, mean film as director. At a technical level, it’s a masterpiece. But all this would be for nothing without Aksel Hennie’s performance. Yes, the rest of the cast are pitch perfect but, without the central performance, it would all be for nothing. Even though we should not be rooting for the thief to come through this sea of troubles, Aksel Hennie manages to make this somewhat unpleasant man sympathetic. In this case, morality be hanged! It would be great if he could survive. There’s just one problem. Everyone and their dog is out to kill him.


For reviews of other films and television programs by Yellow Bird:
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest or Luftslottet som sprängdes (2009)
The Girl Who Played With Fire or Flickan som lekte med elden (2009)
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or Män som hatar kvinnor (2009)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Wallander: Before the Frost (2012)
Wallander: The Dogs of Riga (2012)
Wallander: An Event in Autumn (2012)
Wallander: Faceless Killers (2010)
Wallander: The Fifth Woman (2010)
Wallander: Firewall (2009)
Wallander: The Man Who Smiled (2010)
Wallander: One Step Behind (2008)
Wallander: Sidetracked (2009)

For review of novels by Jo Nesbo, see:
The Bat
The Son.

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