In a Better World (Hævnen)

Anton (Mikael Persbrandt, Everlasting Moments) is a doctor who commutes from his home in Denmark to a refugee in sub-Saharan Africa where he helps a number of pregnant women who have been assaulted by the local warlord, whom he must also treat. Because he’s separated from his wife and frequently away from home, Anton’s ten-year-old son, Elias, feels isolated and is the subject of bullying at his school. He befriends the new kid in class, Christian (William Jøhnk Nielsen), who’s just moved to town from London after his mother died of cancer. A dangerous, probably psychopathic boy, Christian convinces Elias that the two of them should engage in a stupidly dangerous act of revenge.

The film, also known under the less cloying titles Civilization and The Revenge (or simply Revenge), is directed by Susanne Bier, a Danish filmmaker probably best known for 2006’s After the Weddding, as well as her 2007 Hollywood movie Things We Lost in the Fire. (Bier’s 2004 film, Brødre, was remade poorly in 2009 as Brothers, with Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal.) It’s easy to see why Bier’s films are beloved by Hollywood: they already have something of a tinsel-town feel to them, and her latest seems primed for a remake—particularly with its climactic rooftop scene, which feels ripped straight out of a big-budget action movie. This is not to say Bier’s film is bad—it’s well-paced, spectacularly well-shot, and much of the acting is stellar—particularly from young Nielsen. The film has a nagging formulaic quality to it, though—as if it were almost begging for a Stateside remake for the dispiritingly large subtitle-phobic chunk of the modern moviegoing audience. This is redeemed (or overridden) by the fact that it deals in important, heavy themes with appropriate maturity and seriousness.

In a Better World is in cinemas now.