Directed by Brian De Palma.
Starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Carice van Houten, Eriq Ebouaney, Søren Malling, Paprika Steen, Nicolas Bro, Thomas W. Gabrielsson, Mohammed Azaay, Younes Bachir, and Guy Pearce.
A Copenhagen police officer seeks justice for his partner’s murder by a mysterious man.
For a film mired in production troubles (apparently, the crew were only able to shoot 30 days/100 and were gipped out of some serious funds), Domino is… good. More than anything, it’s a testament to how strong of a filmmaker Brian De Palma is and remains to this day, overcoming numerous hurdles to present 89 minutes (cut down from a little over two hours, for better or worse) of lean crowd-pleasing thrills grounded in revenge and ISIS hunting.
The actual narrative is fairly basic; two Copenhagen police officers receive a disturbance call at a nearby hotel and decide to check it out. What they find are a grisly murder and some heavy explosive equipment, subsequently and momentarily apprehending the man responsible, but not before an attempted escape followed by a highly exciting foot chase across rooftops complete with characters dangling and shimmying from the ledges of said buildings. It’s the most standard video game style chase sequence there probably is, which rarely ever translates to explosive cinematic fun, but with this team behind the camera (Brian De Palma, cinematographer José Luis Alcaine, and composer Pino Donaggio), something familiar (at least to someone experienced with interactive entertainment) and not even necessarily complex from an action standpoint becomes wholly entrancing; it’s the kind of exquisitely talented craft that’s a reminder this legendary director once kickstarted the Mission: Impossible franchise. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau looks like and is thrown into Nathan Drake reminiscent scenarios, and I’m not saying Tom Holland doesn’t deserve the role (they’re going with a younger version of the character anyway), but here is someone that deserved it for that long-gestating Uncharted adaptation.
Video game comparisons aside, Domino is drenched in colorful lightning, beautifully utilizes overhead perspectives (occasionally slowly zooming in on important objects that will quickly become pertinent to the plot), and steady capturing of its methodically built set pieces. In other words, it’s a Brian De Palma movie. Also, not to continue gushing over the first 20 minutes of the film, but it truly is an outstanding slice of action that will probably rival much of what makes it to mainstream cinemas over the summer. Anyway, while Christian (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is in hot pursuit over the suspect, his partner Lars (Søren Malling) tragically bleeds out from a flesh wound, leading to the first of many different threads of vengeance.
The suspect is taken in by the CIA where it’s made known that he is also acting from a personal vendetta going after ISIS. Eriq Ebouaney is surprisingly given an equal amount of screen time for the major players of the movie (especially considering the already swift running time), strongarmed by a standoffish CIA agent played by Guy Pearce in order to continue along with his work so that ISIS can be taken out. It’s also worth noting that the film takes place in 2020, which is made all the more interesting considering the film depicts the terrorist group very seriously (their dialogue is not cartoonish or even B-grade action villa nonsense) and could be perceived as predicting senseless slaughter. It’s authentically disturbing, unflinchingly and brutally showing a mass shooting carried out from two perspectives side-by-side (first person and third person). Naturally, the mercilessly violent organization has more horrific plans up their sleeves to act out soon enough.
That is unless Christian can stop the threat, who is now partnered up with Alex (Carice van Houten, reuniting two fan favorites from the massively popular HBO series Game of Thrones), where hidden secrets come to light. If there’s one definitive underexplored area of Domino, this is it as viewers will likely only halfway care about what they are clearly supposed to invest in. Nevertheless, it’s yet another layer of revenge in this globetrotting terrorist thriller where all parties inevitably triangulate at one potentially doomed public location.
Like everything else preceding it, the finale is simply awesome, combining realistic threats with outrageously gnarly violence baked into personal vendettas that come to a head. Unfortunately, for as impressively technically crafted Brian De Palma’s film is, it’s painfully obvious that story beats are not as fleshed out as desired and that material was indeed left on the cutting room floor (and I’m willing to bet it has something to do with being screwed over doing shooting rather than creative liberties), but what’s here is undeniably sound and compelling. Domino is a short and sweet suspenseful terrorism thriller teaming up a pair of Game of Thrones stars, that also isn’t afraid to linger on the monster that is ISIS. The violence is enjoyable but not without important real-world parallels, which could have resulted in a bold misfire if not in the hands of a veteran like Brian De Palma. More impressively, it looks and sounds incredible.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com