King's Game Review

Following a car crash, Aksel Brun (Jesper Langberg), the leader of the Party ends up in a coma a few days before a general election he was forecast to win. As soon as the news breaks, two potential leaders come to the fore: Lone Kjeldsen (Nastja Arcel - the director's sister) and Erik Dreier (Søren Pilmark) - both with powerful allies and political savvy. Young journalist Ulrik Torp (Anders W. Berthelsen) is given his first crack at the big time by his newspaper. He is parachuted in to cover the impending battle of the giants but Torp has annoyed a lot of his colleagues as his father was once a minister and they smell favouritism. Using his father's connections, Torp finds himself breaking a series of damaging stories for Kjeldsen but he starts to feel that he is being fed information by some invisible spin-doctor.

Followers of Danish cinema will recognise the omnipresent Anders W. Berthelsen as the lead from early Mifune and Italian for Beginners and he gives another excellent performance as an earnest journalist looking for the bigger picture. Opposite him, the cast of politicians is equally impressive with Arcel and Pilmark nailing the power hungry drive of those ready to do anything to get within power's reach. The plotting however is a bit of a mixed bag - there are a few too many "Eureka" moments which change the course of the film in an instant but it's difficult to not become engaged in the film's enthusiastic thrust. Despite being a début, Arcel has managed to put together a convincing piece with a very distinctive look. Parts of it end up being almost monochrome as the palette is drained of almost all hues leaving mostly blues and greys - it gives this bleary, early morning look that fits in perfectly with the film's ambiance. Although this may not be the best political thriller I've seen in recent years, it's still a very good effort that deserves to be seen. It's a thousand miles away from Dogma's restraint but still retains the ability to draw fully formed characters without losing sight of the plot.

The DVD:
Foreign films tend to get very poor, bare-bones releases in the UK. However, in this case, we have been treated with a very comprehensive edition with many extras.

The image:
The shades of black come out very well in most scenes but the overall transfer is very grainy. That seems to be at least partly the wanted effect from the filmmakers - probably to make it closer to TV images - and gives the film a realistic, gritty edge. The colours have also been kept in line with the director's desire to keep them cold and depleted.

The sound:
There is a DTS soundtrack as well as a 5.1 mix - both are very good but as the film is very much dialogue centred, it seems slightly like overkill including both of them. Still it's good to see these extras appear on a UK release.

The extras:
First up we have a commentary (in Danish but subtitled in English) from the director/writer Niolaj Arcel, his co-writer Rasmus Heisterberg and from a former Danish spindoctor now a newspaper editor. The commentary sways between technical details and political discussion making it a bit of an unusual but entertaining mix. Follows a series of interesting featurettes on the film
  • The real King's Game (18 mins) gives the key to who the characters in the film were based upon
  • Truths about the movie (25 mins) looks at how much of the original novel was kept and the other sources they used to make the film.
  • The conservative's spin on the movie (8 mins)
  • Interview with the novel's author (9 mins)
  • The Halls of Power (7 mins) - a look at the production design of the film
As the film is to be given an extended cut on Danish TV, only one Deleted scene was included as the rest will be used at a later date. An alternative scene is also included and both scenes don't really add much to the film but it's good to have them included. We also have an in-depth look at how the poster artwork emerged with detailed comments on why each one was dropped. Finally, we have a blooper reel as well as a teaser and a full trailer.

It's not often I see a foreign language film receive such an extensive release in the UK - all the extras from the Danish release have been painstakingly subtitled in English and offer a lot more insight into the film as a result. The extras are all quite interesting for those who want to dig a little deeper into the world of Danish politics.

8 out of 10
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