One-part Sightseers and one part TV’s The Returned, In Order of Disappearance is superbly paced and entertaining film. Some might be put out as it slides from docile beginnings into a violent gangster film, but if you can overcome the change you’ll be entertained thoroughly.
Norwegian snowplough driver Nils (Stellen Skarsgard) is named ‘Citizen of the Year’ after carrying out his humble job for so many years. However Nils returns home to the news of his son’s death and, once he discovers foul play, this quiet civil servant plans his revenge.
With a pretty basic narrative and characters, director Hans Petter Moland has made a fantastic film. Chocked full of Scandi-Noir nuances – the mountains, the grey, the snow – Moland could have made another sickly pile of eye candy but instead he treats you to something else. Sinister foreshadowing as Nils’ plough rips apart the landscape before him, a soundtrack that moves the action forwards and a little gratuitous violence. Perhaps a conscious twist on what’s becoming a slightly bloated genre; we haven’t had this much fun since Trollhunter. Though Nils transformation is given little explanation, it’s riveting to watch him beat up drug dealers. Veteran cinematographer Philip Ogaard is also due a shout.
Maybe a small catch-22. In Order of Disappearance chooses to avoid the ethics of revenge – there is some distance between it and films like last year’s Prisoners or even ones such as Gran Torino. Nor does it blur lines, as drug lord ‘The Count’ (Pal Sverre Hagen) attracts your boos and hisses the whole flick through. Yet Hagen portrayal of the gangster is perhaps the finest part of this film, comparable to all the great New Wave villains, he’s a tightly wound sociopath who we get to see unwind. This isn’t just a beautiful performance from Hagen (also Norway’s 14th Sexiest Man, apparently) screenwriter Kim Fupz Aakeson deserves praise for the character’s creation.
The minimalist style of the script makes this film accessible to an audience outside the normal foreign language crowd – given the week it’s opened, however, I don’t expect it to do too well in the UK. Though the collaboration of a number of smaller studios have done well to have muscled their way into February’s Berlin Film Festival with titles such as The Grand Budapest Hotel, Boyhood and the soon to be released ’71.
It could easily lose twenty minutes off the end and some of the early humour might strike a flat tone (like the deceased Ingvar being dollied up with a foot pump in front of his parents). But after two hours of In Order of Disappearance I doubt you’ll miss the understated drama you sat down to.