People who seemingly have the most successful and intriguing lives aren’t always as accomplished as they appear. This is the interesting concept explored in the new Norwegian action thriller Headhunters, which showcases the extreme lengths people will go through in order to look prosperous to their colleagues, friends and even families. While striving to maintain a seemingly perfect home for his wife, the title character in the movie has a few secrets that ultimately cause havoc on his personal and professional lives.
Headhunters follows Norway’s most accomplished headhunters, Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie), who would do anything to please his beautiful wife, gallery owner Diana (Synnove Macody Lund). He has resorted to stealing art to pay for their extravagant lifestyle, which is well beyond their means. While at the opening for Diana’s new gallery, she introduces her husband to a former mercenary, Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who is looking to obtain a job in Norway, so that he can move there permanently from Amsterdam.
Roger decides to become friendly with Clas so that he can steal a valuable and rare painting that he’s holding in his grandmother’s apartment. As Roger gets closer to Clas, he ultimately learns a secret about him that changes everything and raises the stakes far higher than he could have ever imagined. From there, things take off in a thrilling fashion but to say anymore would spoil the always-exciting story.
Director Morten Tyldum has chosen some excellent actors for his adaptation of Headhunters, which is based on Jo Nesbo‘s best-selling 2008 book of the same name. Hennie, who previously worked with Tyldum on the 2003 comedy-drama Buddy, perfectly balances Roger’s vulnerability with his determination to succeed in life. Then there’s Coster-Waldau, who brings a strong confidence and arrogance to Clas and keeps us guessing about his background/motives the whole way through. He’s a great antagonist and his screen presence is captivating, it’s hard to take your eyes off him when he’s on screen.
Tyldum doesn’t only impress with his casting choices, his visual style and overall slickness is very welcome as well. He keeps the tension high and the pacing near perfect as he unfolds his tightly plotted thriller, offering up surprise after surprise. For those who like to lighten up a bit, Tyldum also ensures that there are bits of humor sprinkled throughout as well.
Screenwriters Lars Gudmestad and Ulf Ryberg have done a great job at seamlessly adapting Nesbo’s novel for the big screen. They capture the story well and present it in a thrilling fashion that offers audiences a gripping game of cat and mouse that will have you on the edge of your seat. Though things can seem a bit too unbelievable and unconvincing at times, what’s going on on screen is never less than entertaining. Yes, the film is silly at times but the filmmakers know this and they embrace it, which is why it works.
Headhunters is a daring thriller motivated by the insecurities and desires of its lead characters. Hennie is well cast in the title role and Coster-Waldau is perfect for the film’s main antagonist. The two both brilliantly captured the essence of appearing as well adjusted career men who secretly do whatever it takes to maintain their respective lifestyles.
An American remake is already being prepped but do yourself a favor and see this version first. As it stands, Headhunters is an exciting, thrilling and well executed film that is definitely worth your time and money.