False Trail Review
Kjell Sundvall’s 1996 feature Jägarna was a massive hit in its native Sweden. A taut crime thriller starring a pre-Wallander Rolf Lassgård, it failed to make the journey to either the US or the UK, though there was some talk of an American remake. It finally turned up on these shores only a few weeks ago thanks to a DVD release from Arrow (under the name of The Hunters), though its arrival was so late that 2011’s fifteen-years-later sequel, Jägarna 2 was already snapping at its heels. Not that unsuspecting buyers would have been aware of this state of affairs: retitled False Trail for the UK market, there isn’t even the slightest of hints as to its follow-up status. Indeed, the major blurb on the sleeve reads “From the distributor of The Killing & The Bridge” making it immediately clear as to the audience being chased.
To be fair, foreknowledge of Jägarna isn’t strictly necessary when watching the sequel, though it comes recommended simply because it’s a cracking movie. (The Swedish Blu-ray is the way to go, being both English-friendly and superbly presented.) False Trail picks things up in the present day with the disappearance of a young girl forcing Lassgård’s CIA man to return to his hometown for the first time since the events of the original. Flashbacks are provided to help jog memories/aid the newcomers, but for the most part this new picture concerns itself with the new case. What begins as a missing persons investigation inevitably becomes a murder and soon we are invited to sift through the suspects: Jonas Hedlund’s socially inept stalker; Eero Milonoff’s local thug (and Aphex Twin lookalike); perhaps even Peter Stormare’s intimidating police chief or his wife with a history of violence. As the British title suggests, there are plenty of red herrings along the way.
According to the on-disc interview with Lassgård, director Sundvall repeatedly stated over the years that he would only follow up Jägarna’s massive success if he were able maintain his leading man and get his hands on the right script. False Trail returns to the original’s screenwriter Björn Calström and also brings in Stefan Thunberg, who’d previously written five episodes of Wallander (the Krister Henriksson series, which was made after the Lassgård portrayals). Given the police procedural nature of the plotting it’s hard not to watch the film in light of the ‘Nordic noir’ television we’ve been treated to these past few years –the two-hour running time even splits perfectly down the middle with a grand revelation coming at the exact halfway mark – and there’s little doubt that False Trail will appeal to the same audience.
With that said, Sundvall keeps proceedings sufficiently cinematic. The Norrland locations are simply gorgeous and frame exceptionally well in 2.35:1 ’scope. You would imagine that cinematographer Jallo Faber (another Wallander veteran) need do little more than point his camera given the scenery, but to suggest as much would be incredibly unfair; indeed, False Trail doesn’t look this good by accident. Furthermore, it also comes with a terrific score from Johan Söderqvist (Let the Right One In, The Bridge) and has the central pairing of Lassgård and Stormare at its disposal plus a fine supporting cast. In other words, there’s a great deal of polish, one that’s befitting of a sequel to one of Sweden’s biggest ever homegrown successes.
And yet False Trail isn’t quite so tight as it ought to be, especially for a film that was no doubt much anticipated at home. Perhaps it’s the result of watching it so soon after The Bridge and The Killing III – two highpoints of the ‘Nordic noir’ wave as well as excellent taut-and-twisty thrillers in their own right – or perhaps it’s my own expectations have thoroughly enjoyed Jägarna when finally catching up with it last year. Either way, False Trail’s mysteries prove a little too transparent and lack the requisite intrigue. Certainly, the film is never less than slick, moves along at a hefty pace and boasts a couple of heavyweight performances from its leads, but those seeking further Scandinavian thrills are advised to sample Jägarna first, either through the UK DVD or that Swedish Blu-ray.
Despite issuing Jägarna as a DVD-only release, False Trail has been granted the full high definition treatment from Arrow. Though light on extras, this new Blu-ray does at least offer up an excellent presentation that more than does justice to Jallo Faber’s cinematography and those highly photogenic forests of Norrland. The disc has been given a 1080i AVC encode, retains the film’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and, as you would expect from such a new production, a completely spotless image. Technical issues and ill-effects are similarly non-existence with detail being superb and the colours sufficiently punchy. At times Faber prefers a slightly saturated look which, again, is handled without flaw. The soundtrack, meanwhile, comes in DTS-HD Master Audio Multi-Channel form with optional English subtitles. Once more there are no issues to speak of, with dialogue and Johan Söderqvist’s score coming across just fine.
Extras are limited to an interview with Rolf Lassgård and the theatrical trailer. The former is conducted by writer Barry Forshaw and lasts 13 minutes. As the writer of Death in a Cold Climate: A Guide to Scandinavian Fiction and Nordic Noir, Forshaw understandably errs away from the film in hand to discuss its place among this trend as well as Lassgård’s experiences playing Wallander. It makes for an interesting listen, especially when they go off-topic. Did you know, for example, that Lassgård took the part of Edna Turnblad (a role originally played by Divine) in the stage adaptation of Hairspray?