out of Five
Running time: 103
Enjoyable, well written and intelligent political thriller that’s both impressively acted and smartly directed, though it’s not as dark as it should have been.
There’s always an appetite for a well-written political thriller, but it’s been quite a while since there was a decent one on the big screen. Happily, Danish thriller King’s Game
(originally entitled Kongekabale
) hits the spot nicely, having been a huge success in Denmark where it racked up eight Danish Academy Awards, including Best Film and Best Director.
King’s Game is set in contemporary Denmark, just weeks away from a general election. When the leader of the Centre Party is seriously injured in a car accident, a power struggle erupts between his two most likely successors:
conservative chairman Erik Dreier (Soren Pilmark) and his more liberal rival, Lone Kjeldsen (Nastja Arcel).
Meanwhile, ambitious journalist Ulrik Torp (Anders W. Berthelsen), is assigned the parliamentary beat for a national newspaper and problems begin when no-one believes his evidence of a conspiracy.
King’s Game is adapted from a novel by political insider Niels Krause-Kjoer and as such, the script has an air of seasoned authenticity about it. It’s also extremely well shot. Arcel keeps things incredibly dark throughout, generally heightening the sense of paranoia and suspicion despite lapses in tension at critical points.
Throughout King’s Game there are a number of extremely effective, well-written scenes, as well as an amusingly cynical coda that plays out with snippets from future news stories. The performances are excellent, particularly Berthelsen, a likeable actor, who uses his deceptively boyish face to brilliant effect. Whilst Pilmark makes a terrific, believable villain – his face can barely mask his contempt for anyone who stands in his way. However, it’s Nicolas Bro who steals the film as freelance journalist Henrik Moll, who gets all the best lines and livens up every scene he’s in.
The only real problem with King’s Game is that it could easily have been a much darker, more powerful film. It’s difficult to tell whether Arcel is deliberately playing on audience expectations in that regard, but maybe that’s the result of having seen too many clichéd American thrillers.
In short, King’s Game is an enjoyable, impressively directed thriller with an intelligent script and strong performances. As such, it’s definitely worth seeking out, particularly if you’re a fan of conspiracy theory movies.