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Film Review: In Order of Disappearance

9th September 2014

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Stellan Skarsgard stars as Nils in In Order of Disappearance, a darkly comic and unexpected foray into the life of Norway’s criminal drug gangs – and the unfortunate people who find themselves caught up in their murky world.

Shortly after being named Citizen of the Year, mild-mannered snow plough driver Nils discovers that his son has died from an apparent heroin overdose. Not accepting this explanation, he takes himself on a journey to find the man or men responsible for his son’s death – and the body count quickly starts to mount up.

The violence vs. mundane nature of the film, with drug king pin ‘The Count’ running his criminal empire whilst simultaneously arguing with his ex-wife over what their son should be allowed to eat for breakfast, works well, offering a deeper level of characterisation than might be expected from a film with so much violence – and adding essential moments of humour, of course.

Although the characterisation works well for The Count, however, it is lacking in the depiction of Nils himself, despite him being the film’s focal point. The audience is likely to want to know more about him before he starts (almost arbitrarily) bumping off drug skivvies. At one point his wife, alienated by his behaviour in light of their son’s death, asks “Who are you?” We could ask the same question - it's a strange situation when we feel like we know the supposed crime boss (great casting of Pal Sverre Hagen, with his pale skin and cold, bloodless blue eyes) better than the supposed hero.

The main issue with In Order of Disappearance, though, is that it doesn’t seem to quite know what it is. There isn’t enough humour or consideration of events to make it an entirely successful black comedy, and there is so much blood splattered across the eerily white landscape that it overshadows any further depth or feeling that could provide more substance. This constant death makes it difficult for us to take anything from it other than gore. In fact, the relentless bloodshed makes the film feel overlong – not a good sign when the running time remains on the right side of two hours.

Stellan’s acting, and that of Sverre Hagen as the Count, are stoic and chilling respectively, and it is these performances that make In Order of Disappearance overall a decent film, that is worth a watch if you’re a fan of black comedy.

In Order of Disappearance is released in the UK on 11th September. Watch the trailer here.

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