The rise of the petty criminal lured in by money and power is a familiar arc to anyone with an interest in the crime genre. It’s one that has been seen in films globally from France’s A Prophet to Britain’s Rise of the Footsoldier. Northwest is by no means a tired entry, and is a solid by-the-books gritty Nordic crime drama striking a balance between refreshing and familiar.
The story follows burglar Casper (Gustav Dyekjær Giese) who begins “working” for Arab gang leader Jamal (Dulfi Al-Jabouri) i.e. steals from middle-class households and sells the goods onto him, but then after receiving an anonymous text from Bjørn (Roland Møller) begins working for him and his crew. Casper then brings his brother Andy (Oscar Dyekjær Giese – real life brother) to assist him in this new shady crew.
The shaky camera style and the use of diegetic music (music only heard from sound systems within the scenes) ensures the naturalistic performances and the solid script, co-written by A Royal Affair and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo screenwriter Rasmus Heisterberg, are given the well-deserved quasi-documentary style. While it may not be on-par with such previous works in terms of depth and scope, this film still offers an aggressively unglamorous insight into the petty criminal underworld.
As much of it is filmed in enclosed areas such as tiny bars, crowded households and alleyways, the claustrophobia, rising tensions and the inter-connectedness within this underworld resonates on screen. It’s Casper’s lack of direction that keeps the narrative from veering into clichés. The jobs he undertakes for Bjørn’s crew are obvious and never questioned by neither Casper nor Andy for they’re too preoccupied with gaining a profit over morality.
Unfortunately, at a rather short 86 minutes, the atmosphere outweighs characterisation, predominantly from the supporting cast, who are given minimal screen–time and consequently something is lost. Most notably is Casper’s relationship with his mother and younger sister: the tired, worrisome look from the mother is enough to suggest intent but not enough for emotional gravity.
Northwest is an entertaining if short-handed Nordic crime thriller, and serves as a perfect segue to those wanting to invest in the Nordic genre. The film’s gritty atmosphere and shaky cam style will keep audiences engaged in Casper’s small criminal underworld and the tension that rises within it.
Northwest is released nationwide on 25th July 2014.
Watch the trailer for Northwest here: