55th BFI London Film Festival – Headhunters (2011)

Headhunters (Norwegian: Hodejegerne), 2011.

Directed by Morten Tyldum.
Starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Julie R. Ølgaard and Aksel Hennie.


A successful headhunter risks everything in his efforts to steal a valuable painting.

Headhunters is the first book-to-film adaptation of the highly regarded and critically acclaimed Norwegian thriller writer Jo Nesbo. Having previous refused to have his work adapted from page to screen until now, Nesbo has chosen a fitting story to have his storytelling portrayed on the silver screen.

Directed by Marten Tyldum, the story focuses on headhunter Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie). Married to Diana, he feels he is punching above his weight and struggles to afford the lifestyle he thinks will keep her interested in him. In order to make more money on the side Roger – working with his accomplice Ove – steals paintings and sells them on. A chance meeting with the sophisticated Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) presents Roger with the ultimate piece of art to steal, but is Clas like all his other victims of theft? Of course not.

What ensues over the course of one hundred minutes is an ever intensifying game of cat and mouse, with each new event and revelation adding more fuel to the fire that seems likely to explode at any moment. Every twist in the tale doubles the tension, and there was a scene during which I was physically squirming in my seat, such was my anticipation for the conclusion to this one, of many, showdowns. I was hooked from the opening sequence where Roger introduces himself. A seemingly successful man with a sinister side – a mesh of ingredients to form the perfect protagonist. His duel with Clas was increasingly intriguing as the film went on, and the prospect of finding out who will come out on top kept me gripped throughout.

The script is very strong and features flecks of humour thrown in to compliment the drama. The lead role of Roger is played superbly by Hennie, and the supporting cast perform admirably too. I can confidently say that this will be one of the most engrossing films of the festival. With Curling King and Headhunters Norwegian cinema is represented very strongly in London this year, both films making sure I keep an eye out for future releases from this country. Headhunters should definitely be on the agenda for anyone attending this year’s festival.

Jon Dudley is a freelance film and television journalist and his 17-minute short film Justification was shown at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

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