Wednesday, January 1, 2014

What I Loved In 2013: The Hunt

Vinterberg's Jagten is getting a lot of attention this awards season - nabbing a Golden Globe nomination for "Best Foreign Film" while making the shortlist for the Academy Awards' same category - and rightfully so. It's a very good film elevated to even greater heights by the performance of its lead - Mads Mikkelsen.

Mikkelsen, with his foreign charm and unique look, has made a career taking on interesting roles. In the case of American audiences, these are oftentimes villainous parts - he was one of Bond's primary adversaries in Casino Royale and he currently fills the shoes of the infamous Hannibal Lecter in NBC's fantastic "Hannibal" series. While this might seem a bit like typecasting, it's not for a lack of range.

In The Hunt, Mikkelsen plays Lucas, one of this year's most sympathetic characters, whose journey from mild-mannered daycare worker to wrongfully accused town-pariah is put on display with a full spectrum of emotion from the actor. Initially Lucas is sensitive, loving and funny and, in the wake of the accusations levied against him, he becomes vulnerable, mystified and finally indignant and irate.

Vinterberg smartly focuses the plot on the mob-mentality of the tight-knit Danish town where Lucas was once a well-liked and respected member of the community. The nature of the crime lands the protagonist in an impossible situation - no substantial proof can be brought for or against his innocence. Lucas stubbornly remains in town resolute, but an island. Even as inconsistencies in the stories of his accusers surface and the signs of mass hysteria become more evident, the existence of that sliver of doubt still poisons the community against him.

A steady stream of crushing and emotional scenes build The Hunt to a point where almost no satisfying conclusion seems possible - either Lucas dies or the town inexplicably and unbelievably has an about face on the matter. What we end up with is something in between, something the viewer can live with, but not without a tense and haunting final moment before credits.

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