The Hunt (2012)

Director: Thomas Vinterberg 

Screenplay: Thomas Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Anika Wedderkopp, Lasse Fogelstrøm

Running Time: 115 minutes

Language: Danish

Year: 2012

This superb, Oscar nominated Danish film follows the story of Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), a recently divorced kindergarten teacher in a small Danish town who is struggling to spend time with his son Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrøm). He has many friends in town, including Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen), who has a small daughter who goes to the school at which Lucas teaches named Klara (Anika Wedderkopp). Lucas frequently walks Klara to and from school and Klara seems to have a bit of a crush on Lucas. One day she kisses Lucas quickly while he is playing with the children and she gives him a heart, and after Lucas declines her romantic gesture in a polite manner, she tells the principal, Grethe (Susse Wold) that Lucas showed her his genitals. After these accusations become public, Lucas is shunned and persecuted by the town while even all of his closest friends turn against him, except for Bruun (Lars Ranthe). Marcus also comes to town to be with his father and also feels the effects of the hatred the town has for his father. Things only get worse for Lucas when more children come forward and claim that he molested them also.

Mads Mikkelsen as Lucas in “The Hunt”.

I just watched this film last night because of my being converted into a Mads Mikkelsen fan after watching Hannibal last year. I was introduced to Mikkelsen through Casino Royale, like most English-speaking film-goers but this movie is where he really shows his acting chops. Mikkelsen has a very subtle acting style that is usually used to play mysterious villains, but it equally well with the character of Lucas, who is easy to identify with due to his normality. The most well-acted scene in the film has to be when Lucas goes to the local Christmas Eve church service and tearfully confronts Theo in front of everyone about his innocence. I frequently found myself enraged at how the townspeople instantaneously took the word of a child instead of a well-respected man in the community like Lucas.

Annika Wedderkopp as Klara in “The Hunt”.

Annika Wedderkopp, the young actress who plays Klara, also gave a great performance. While she did cause Lucas the trouble in the film, she never intended to cause any harm. She plays Klara as an innocent who is troubled by what is happening to Lucas. For a while in the film, she does not even know whether she was actually lying or not due to what people are saying. Her mother (played by Anne Louise Hassing), unable to accept the possibility that Klara told a fib, tells Klara that she most likely suppressed the memory of Lucas molesting her. The final scene between Lucas and Klara, which shows that they have left the past behind as much as possible, really tears at your heartstrings.

The supporting cast was not wasted at all. You could sympathize with Klara’s parents even though they were completely wrong in believing the accusations against Lucas. Unlike the children, they are not innocents and do not have an excuse for blindly believing the lies the children are telling. You can’t help but find them despicable despite them being so easy to identify with. If your child accused someone of molesting them, you would instinctively believe them. The headmistress of the school, Grethe, is the one I really couldn’t stand because of her naivety of believing the children at all times.

The film really makes you think about what would happen to you if you were placed in an unfortunate situation like that. Would your friends stand by you or would they turn on you and assume the worst? When the film first shows Lucas hanging out with his buddies after a hunting trip, laughing and drinking, you would assume that they would all stick together no matter what, but even Lucas’s “best friend”, Theo, turns on him and does not give him the benefit of the doubt when his daughter makes the accusations. If I were in Theo’s position, I would want to believe my daughter over my friend also, but the film shows how terribly dangerous it can be to blindly believe everything someone, even a small child, says.

The court of public opinion is a very dangerous place. Presumption of innocence might apply to the court of law, but it isn’t so in the court of public opinion. It makes me wonder if even you are considered innocent until proven otherwise in the court of law? Is the jury always unbiased in their decision making? Whenever Grethe hears Klara’s accusations, she instantly believes her with no evidence to support the claim. She tells Lucas, “I always believe the children!” Grethe’s blind faith in the children at the school could have easily proven fatal to Lucas. These children who make the accusations against Lucas are innocents and most likely do not realize that their actions are wrong. They all clearly love Lucas, as you see him playing with them in almost every scene in which he goes to the school. The movie almost seems to make the case that innocence can be dangerous. Klara tells her father that she never anticipated the consequences to the lie she told.

Mads Mikkelsen (right) as Lucas. Lasse Fogelstrøm (left) as his son Marcus.

Now, here be SPOILERS. By the end of the film Lucas is acquitted and all looks well. Lucas is happily dating his love-interest Nadja (Alexandra Rapaport) and is finally able to see his son regularly. The townspeople are treating him normally too. They all go on a hunting trip after celebrating Marcus getting his hunting licence. While alone in the woods, Lucas is nearly shot in the head by an unknown shooter. This ending seems to show that Lucas’s life will never truly be back to normal and that the accusations made against him will forever cast a dark shadow upon his reputation. This reminds me of Arthur Leigh Allen, who was accused by author Robert Graysmith and several people of being the elusive Zodiac Killer when all evidence points toward his innocence. Many people still believe that Allen is the Zodiac Killer. The person who shot at Lucas (if it was intentional) symbolizes those who still believe that Lucas molested the children.

This film isn’t one for everyone. Many might think it is slow, but I was totally engrossed in the film and invested in the characters (especially Lucas and Klara, of course). Despite it not being extremely violent, it is still very disturbing because of how far the accusations and their impacts go. It is scary to think that this could happen to anyone! Mads Mikkelsen took his place as the lead actor and held onto every scene he was in. I really wish he was applicable for Best Actor, but at least the film has been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. This is easily one of the best films of 2012.


Hannibal: Season 1 (2013)

Poster for “Hannibal” Season 1.

Developed for television by: Bryan Fuller

Based on: Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

Starring: Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Lawrence Fishburne, Carolina Dhavernas, Hettienne Park

Episodes: 13

Running time per episode: 42 minutes

Network: NBC

Year: 2013

Language: English

I have been a huge fan of the Hannibal Lecter series ever since I first watched a great chunk of the 2001 film Hannibal (starring Anthony Hopkins as Lecter and Julianne Moore as Clarice Starling) on AMC and enjoyed it immensely. I then proceeded to read Thomas Harris’s prequel story Hannibal Rising, which details the development of a young Hannibal into the cannibalistic serial killer we see in the original trilogy, and I later watched the rather mediocre (but still enjoyable) film adaptation starring Gaspard Ulliel in the role of Hannibal Lecter. After that, I watched the rest of the films (including Michael Mann’s superb 1986 thriller Manhunter, adapted from Red Dragon). When I heard in the spring of 2012 that they were developing a TV series for NBC about Special Investigator Will Graham’s relationship with Dr. Lecter, I was quite excited. The excitement only grew when I heard that they had cast Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen (famous for playing Bond villain Le Chiffre in Casino Royale) in the role of Hannibal. The first role cast was that of Hugh Dancy as Will Graham, but I was not familiar with him. The show was also being developed by cult-favorite Bryan Fuller (Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies), who I also was not familiar with.

Here are some things you need to know before watching the series: this show is not in the same canon as the films, but takes place in the “Fullerverse” (which includes this, Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies, and Mockingbird Lane).  Also, the first season (and the soon to be released second season) are about Will Graham and Hannibal’s relationship before the latter’s capture. This relationship was not present in the books, but adds an interesting depth to the characters. The idea of Hannibal and Will being friends and colleagues before Lecter’s capture originated in the 2002 film Red Dragon. This show is not derivative of the films, but makes references to both the films and the books which are usually quite amusing. The show has a very different atmosphere from the Anthony Hopkins Hannibal adaptation series, as well as Michael Mann’s Manhunter.

Mads Mikkelsen (left) as Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Hugh Dancy (right) as Special Investigator Will Graham in “Hannibal” Season 1.

Here is my synopsis of the series (with as little spoilers as possible):

Criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) is tortured by his ability to empathize with anyone, including psychopaths. His mental and emotional instability made him unable to become a real FBI agent, but they continued to use him as a consultant until he decided to become a teacher at the academy. Will is eventually asked by the head of the BAU, Special Agent Jack Crawford (Lawrence Fishburne) to help him catch a new serial killer who has arisen: the Minnesota Shrike. Will reluctantly agrees. They are soon stumped by the killer’s psychology, and through the advice of Dr. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), famed Baltimore psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) is brought into the investigation. No one suspects that Dr. Lecter is a serial killer himself. Hannibal is instantly fascinated by Graham’s “pure empathy” and believes that he can help him catch the Shrike. Hannibal does this primarily by doing a Minnesota Shrike copy-cat murder, which gives Will everything he needs to figure out who the killer is.

While Will is initially not interested in Hannibal’s proposal for friendship, he and Hannibal begin a friendship and find the Shrike: Garret Jacob Hobbs together. Hannibal manipulates events so that Will shoots and kills Hobbs after he kills his wife and injures his daughter Abigail (Kacey Rohl). Will then becomes Hannibal’s unofficial patient as he struggles with feelings over the shooting of Hobbs.

“The scales have just fallen from my eyes.”- Will Graham to Hannibal Lecter

Over the course of the season, Will and Hannibal become closer friends and develop father-daughter relationships with Abigail Hobbs, who gravitates closer to Hannibal. This causes friction between them and Jack, who suspects that Abigail was involved in her father’s murders. As more killers are caught, Will and Hannibal’s friendship becomes more and more deadly as Hannibal tries to “help” Will find the killer inside him.

This is easily the best material we’ve had based around Hannibal Lecter in a long time, and I believe it to be the best. The characters, while different from what we’ve seen before in the films, are very faithful to the books. This holds true especially for Hannibal and Will.

Edward Norton (who portrayed Will in Red Dragon) utterly failed to capture the tortured aspect of the character. The tortured side of Graham is only seen when he is visited by Jack Crawford in the beginning of the film. This aspect of the character seems to be totally dropped for the rest of the film (only resurfacing a few times, usually while Will visits Anthony Hopkins’s Hannibal). William Petersen brought out the tortured aspect of Will, but failed in capturing his vulnerability. Hugh Dancy managed to make Will strong, but still mentally and emotionally tortured, as well as being very vulnerable and neurotic.

William Petersen (top) as Will Graham in “Manhunter” (1986) and Edward Norton (bottom) as Will Graham in “Red Dragon” (2002).

Anthony Hopkins was the Bela Lugosi portrayal out of all of the Hannibal Lecter’s. He was larger than life and creepy, but also came across at times as rather hammy. Brian Cox (the Hannibal “Lecktor” of Manhunter) was subtle and intelligent but did not seem anywhere near as refined as Anthony Hopkins did. Mads Mikkelsen perfectly captured the subtle manipulator in the Hannibal character, as well showing his noble upbringing and intelligence. Like Anthony Hopkins, Mads Mikkelsen is very fun to watch (even though Mikkelsen is much more subtle). While the things he does are terrible and he is much more evil than Anthony Hopkins’s portrayal, he is actually much more likable. You can’t help but get a few laughs whenever he makes cannibal puns and when he cooks the rude in S1E7 (Sorbet). I skipped Gaspard Ulliel because he portrays Hannibal at a completely different stage of his life.

Anthony Hopkins (top) in “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991). Brian Cox (middle) in “Manhunter” (1986). Gaspard Ulliel (bottom) in “Hannibal Rising” (2007). All portraying Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

The relationship between Hannibal and Will (Mikkelsen and Dancy have great chemistry), as well as their relationships with those around them, are the hallmarks of the series. While the murder investigations and the criminal profiling are important parts of the show, the show is first and foremost a character study. Lawrence Fishburne’s portrayal is an example of the masterful character development that is shown in the show as he juggles catching serial killers, worrying about Will, and coping with his wife Bella’s (Gina Torres) recent cancer diagnosis.

The acting and casting is top notch. I can’t picture anyone else playing the roles as effectively as the current cast. I knew that Mads Mikkelsen would be good, but I didn’t think he would usurp Anthony Hopkins’s portrayal (in my mind) as the best portrayal of Thomas Harris’s character. Hugh Dancy took me by surprise and nailed his role as Will Graham in a way I never expected also, as he played the Will Graham from the Red Dragon novel almost perfectly. The guest stars have given delicious performances as well. Eddie Izzard and Gillian Anderson are the ones that primarily come to mind, but Lance Henricksen also appeared in a small role in S1E9 (Trou Normand) as a serial killer. Eddie Izzard’s character, murderer Dr. Abel Gideon, was easily the best guest villain in the season for me. Gillian Anderson’s Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier has the fascinating privilege of acting as Dr. Lecter’s psychiatrist and is also a very suspicious character.

Eddie Izzard as Dr. Abel Gideon in “Hannibal” S1E6 (“Entree”).

Gillian Anderson as Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier in “Hannibal” S1E12 (“Releves”).

The entire scope of the first season was so intense and epic that I was dreading getting to the finale, and I am still in dread waiting for Season 2 to premiere. I’ve never seen a premier or a finale in a show that gripped me as much as in Hannibal. I was immediately invested in the characters, especially Will Graham. The performances and scores add volumes to the intensity.

If you enjoyed the Hannibal films and books, like crime shows, or miss Michael C. Hall’s Dexter Morgan slicing through his victims, I highly recommend you give the show a viewing. The show is currently out on DVD and Blu Ray and Season 2 premieres on February 28. Prepare to embrace the madness!


GoodFellas (1990)

Year: 1990

Genre: Drama

Length: 146 Minutes

Based On: Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family by Nicholas Pileggi

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Screenplay by: Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi

Starring: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci

Language: English

What would it be like to be a foot soldier in the Mafia? Would it be exciting? Would it be frightening? Violent even? Or would it be a similar lifestyle to what is portrayed in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather trilogy? In Martin Scorsese’s mafia classic Goodfellas you get an amazing look into the life of a gangster. This is based on the best-selling and critically acclaimed true-crime novel, Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family by crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi (who also co-wrote the screenplay with director, Martin Scorsese) which is the first hand account of Irish-Italian Lucchesse crime family associate turned FBI informant, Henry Hill. This movie tells the story behind many infamous crimes such as the 1978 $6,000,000 Lufthansa Air Line robbery which led to the murders of ten people. This movie also includes a fabulous rock/pop soundtrack with songs such as the Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter and Sid Vicious’ My Way.

Christopher Serrone (left) as a young Henry Hill. Robert De Niro (middle) as Jimmy Conway. Joe D’Onofrio (right) as a young Tommy DeVito.

The story begins as an Irish-Italian twelve year old boy, Henry Hill, later played by Ray Liotta, admires the Mafiosi that operate in his neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, including Lucchesse crime family caporegime Paul ‘Paulie’ Cicero (based on Paul Vario), played by Paul Sorvino, who soon recruits the teenager into his gang and later becomes a fatherly figure to him. Paulie then introduces Henry to some of the most violent mobsters in New York City; James ‘Jimmy the Gent’ Conway and the sociopath Tommy DeVito (based on Jimmy Burke and Tommy DeSimone), played by Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. The three “goodfellas” then begin a twenty-five year rise and fall in Mafia hierarchy.

Joe Pesci (left) as Tommy DeVito. Ray Liotta (middle) as Henry Hill. Robert De Niro (right) as Jimmy Conway.

This is probably the best mob movie I’ve ever seen and also has my nomination for a few Academy Awards! Goodfellas is as exciting as movies can get. The violence is very realistic and accelerates the flow of the movie. Martin Scorsese directs a top-notch cast whose acting is flawless. In Goodfellas, Joe Pesci plays the role of a psychopathic Italian Mafia triggerman even better than Jack Nicholson plays the psychotic writer in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining! Nobody else in the world knows the Mafia underworld better than Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pilleggi. Scorsese is truly able to portray the lifestyle of this particular organized crime group.

Ray Liotta (left) as Henry Hill and Paul Sorvino (right) as Paul Cicero.

In one scene, Martin Scorsese perfectly captures the mentality of almost all Mafiosi. Tommy, Henry and numerous other gangsters are seated at a table listening to Tommy telling jokes and Henry tells Tommy that he is a funny guy. An apparently insulted and enraged Tommy asks how he is funny. Henry begins to show fear as his volatile Mafia partner acts more and more aggressive. Tommy then reveals he was only kidding with him. Henry was obviously afraid Tommy would kill him, that’s the way it is. Later in the movie during a voice over, Henry states that “People would get over arguments over nothing and before you knew it one of them was dead,” This scene shows the paranoia and fear that all mobsters experience at some point during their careers. In a Martin Scorsese career profile called Scorsese on Scorsese, Scorsese states that the “funny guy” scene in Goodfellas is the most realistic segment of any of his Mafia pictures.

I recommend Goodfellas as an outstanding movie to all gangster, true-crime, and biopic film fans. Goodfellas is often held as the most authentic film portrayal of life in a Mafia family ever captured on screen. If you are interested in watching a good crime-drama; sit back, relax and enjoy!

Here is the trailer: