Plot: When a British documentarian is gunned down in the jungles of Indonesia by a Danish citizen, a nerdy psychiatrist- Adrien(Nikolaj Lie Kaas) working for the Danish Justice department is sent, along with his beautiful secretary- Beate (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen), to interview the suspect. The killer (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) claims to be a lost explorer named Severin Geertsen, who’s been given immortality by a magical flower. With the Indonesian authorities, and a group of mercenaries led by a psychotic crime lord (Steven Berkoff), believing Severin’s far-fetched story, Adrien and Beate find themselves pursued into the Indonesian jungle, along with the unhinged and trigger happy Severin.
Review: AT WORLD’S END is one of the more under-the-radar selections to play at the Fantasia Film Festival this year. I knew absolutely nothing about this film before walking into its gala screening, other than the fact that it’s a Danish black comedy. A few years ago, I saw a great Danish film called ADAM’S APPLES, and as this film reunites several of that film’s stars- I decided to give AT WORLD’S END a go.
I’m sure glad I did, as AT WORLD’S END is easily the best film I’ve seen at the festival so far. It’s a charming throw-back to the hundreds of Indiana Jones knock-offs that were filmed in Indonesia during the eighties- with a healthy bit of black Danish humor mixed in. Imagine what ROMANCING THE STONE would be like, as directed by the Coen Bros., and you have an idea of what AT WORLD’S END is going for.
This film really works on several levels, with the first half hour or so more or less being a comedy as our protagonist, the nerdy, chain-smoking psychiatrist, Adrien, finds himself drawn into trouble merely due to his own bad luck and lack of social grace. He winds up in an Indonesian jail when he’s mistaken for a pervert, after a mix-up involving a broken toilet, a maid, and a piece of poo. All Adrien wants to do is quickly wrap up this case, so he can get back home and get on with his life, but fate has other plans. Lie Kass is excellent in the type of role that would probably be played by someone like Steve Carell if this were remade as an American film. I especially liked how inadvertently deadly he becomes once the action kicks in, with him raking up a surprisingly high body count of baddies despite himself.
His chemistry with the gorgeous Sorensen- who plays his surprisingly love struck secretary, is excellent- despite the fact that he’s playing a romantic lead that hates being touched, and is likely a virgin. Sorensen is a smoking hot, classically Danish-looking blonde, with superb comic timing- with her playing a bit of a take-off on Kate Capshaw’s Willie Scott in INDIANA JONES & THE TEMPLE OF DOOM- right down to the dress she wears for a good chunk of the film, although she’s less annoying.
Most of the heroics in the film come courtesy of Coster-Waldau, who’s been popping up in a bunch of American films lately, and will be one of the stars of the HBO fantasy series, GAME OF THRONES. Throughout the film, it’s unclear whether Waldau’s insane, or not- although his trigger-happy nature makes us lean towards the latter- although in a particularly Danish touch of gallows humor, his execution of an innocent maid is shrugged off in a darkly comic scene. There’s a superb action scene involving Waldau being hung upside down from a helicopter, that’s beautifully executed in a mostly CGI free way, that just about brought the house down.
In another throw back to the eighties, we get Steven Berkoff as the villain. Berkoff was the baddie in a whole slew of eighties action flicks, including OCTOPUSSY, BEVERLY HILL COP, and RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II. Interestingly, Berkoff, who always looked middle aged, doesn’t seem to have aged at all- with him looking almost exactly the same as he did in RAMBO II!
I really enjoyed AT WORLD’S END, and the rapturous response it received at Fantasia made it clear that this is a terrific audience film. It’s a tad on the conventional side compared to some of the other Fantasia selections, but sometimes that’s not a bad thing- with it being a fun antidote to some of the more hardcore films I’ve seen here in the last few days. I highly recommend seeking this out if you want a fun piece of escapism.