Annette K. Olesen’s Skytten (2013), a remake of the 1977 film of the same name, is a political thriller with ecological concerns. A year after the elections, the new Danish government appear to be breaking the same promises – regarding their environmental policy – that got them the support of the voters in the first place. When Foreign Minister Thomas Borby (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) announces that oil drilling is underway after all, going back on the government’s earlier commitment, journalist Mia Moesgaard (Trine Dyrholm) points out on a live debate with him that the public is likely to react violently to the betrayal of their trust. That is when frustrated geophysicist and former marksman Rasmus Jensen (Kim Bodnia) decides to indeed act against the new agreement between Denmark, Greenland and the U.S. which involves drilling close to Station North, a military and scientific base in Northeast Greenland. He contacts Mia and provides her with information and figures regarding the oil quantity on site, that contrast the ones that were made public by the government. However, while Mia’s paper is running checks to verify the credibility of the story and politicians are concealing major parts of the oil deal, Rasmus begins a series of intimidating shootings, threatening to start killing people unless the agreement is cancelled.
The film makes use of various distinct rules of creating a thriller in the world of politics. There is an obscure agenda, there is an enraged individual who values a cause and tries to enforce justice with the wrong means, taking action for everyone else even though nobody has put him in charge. There is also the power of the press that everybody attempts to use to their own advantage. Despite all these being present, Skytten fails to achieve its purpose to a satisfied extend. It does not create the necessary tension that would convince the viewers that they are witnessing an extreme situation. One could argue that the catastrophe one expects or at least wonders about is not that of the government or of the environment, but that of the protagonist. This is interesting but it causes the plot to divert, enhancing the drama perhaps more than it is wise for the film’s own good. Regardless, Bodnia delivers a solid performance with a quiet emotional gravity, even though it’s not easy to tell whether his character is meant to be overly restrained and detached or his portrayal of him generates that effect. His on-screen chemistry with Trine Dyrholm gives to the brief relationship of the characters a strong dynamic which sometimes, unfortunately, seems to be kept by the script from reaching its full potential.
The photography and camera-work are quite effective. Literally as well as metaphorically, the right color shades and shadows are applied to all the sides of the story; politics and diplomacy, personal life, dead ends, spasmodic action. The director is actually familiar with the world the Danish government works in, since she has directed several episodes of DR’s highly successful, political drama series, Borgen. This may have been both a blessing and a curse for The Shooter, since it often resembles the universe of the series too much, as far as production design is concerned.
There is no doubt that the film features a great cast and an interesting premise, making for 90 minutes that easily go by. On the downside, it struggles to become convincing, intense enough or particularly original, possibly because the plot hasn’t been developed as well as it could have been.