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Thursday, July 11, 2013


Mads Mikkelsen in THE HUNT, a Magnolia Pictures release.
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. Photo credit: Charlotte Bruus-Christensen.

2013, 111 minutes
Rated R for sexual content including a graphic image, violence and language

Review by Joshua Handler

Of any film releasing this Friday, Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt is the best.  You won’t find a more compelling and provocative film to see this weekend.  The film stars Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, A Royal Affair, TV’s Hannibal) who won the Best Actor award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival for his performance in this film.  He plays Lucas, a recently divorced kindergarten assistant whose best friend’s young daughter lies and says that Lucas sexually abused her.  This lie begins to destroy Lucas’ life. 

The film explores how people have this inherent belief that kids don’t lie about sexual abuse.  We automatically believe that the person accused of abuse is actually an abuser without even questioning the situation.  In The Hunt, Lucas is the model of respect and kindness – not the kind of person usually associated with sexual abuse.  When the girl tells her teacher, Lucas’ boss, that he showed her his genitals, the teacher automatically spreads it around and handles the situation inappropriately without even questioning whether Lucas actually abused the girl.  With more and more cases of sexual abuse unfortunately occurring and being reported, it is very timely for this movie to be released.  While it is absolutely necessary to bring abusers to justice, it is equally necessary to examine the situation and not simply believe everything we’re told blindly, which is what The Hunt calls for.

Mads Mikkelsen’s performance is understated and haunting.  The amount of emotional and physical abuse and pain piled on Lucas is astonishing and his gradual breaking down is expertly portrayed.  Mikkelsen rarely ever plays a normal person, but in The Hunt, he is as likable and normal as they get.  He is relatable and Mikkelsen made me feel for him throughout the film.  I was with Lucas every step of his brutal journey to clear his name.

Vinterberg’s direction and script (co-written with Tobias Lindholm, writer/director of the brilliant film, A Hijacking) are tight and smart.  The Hunt looks and feels like the work of an assured director, completely in control of his film.  While this is definitely the work of someone who has been directing for a long time, it never feels tired or bored.  It is quite the opposite.  The Hunt is more intense and thrilling than most traditional thrillers.  Scenes build with extreme tension, sometimes leading up to a shock.  Vinterberg builds this movie slowly, but this kind of slow does not mean boring.  The build-up builds character and atmosphere.  I was kept completely engaged and interested every minute that this movie was playing.  The film moves at a brisk pace once it really gets going and does not stop until the last scene cuts.  Where Vinterberg deserves the most praise is the final scene.  I was worried that this scene would lead into another portion of the movie which would have drawn it out too much, but instead this final scene caps off the movie perfectly, leaving the viewer with many questions to be discussed long after the credits roll. 

The cinematography by Charlotte Bruus Christensen is gorgeous.  Every shot is perfectly framed and lit.  The lighting isn’t extravagant and has a very naturalistic feel.

Overall, The Hunt is a tense, stressful, smart, well-acted treat that is far more effective than most other films in theaters now.  I was consistently intrigued by The Hunt and was blown away by the crafting of the film.  Watch this and prepare to have a long discussion afterward.


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