REVIEW: Krudttønden: The Day We Died (2020)

Danish Theatrical Release Poster – SF Studios

The following is a review of Krudttønden (international title: The Day We Died) — Directed by Ole Christian Madsen.

Ole Christian Madsen’s Krudttønden: The Day We Died is a dramatization of the 2015 Copenhagen terrorist attack that follows four different individuals — Finn Nørgaard, Dan Uzan, Omar El-Hussein, and Rico — in the days leading up to the shootings and when the shootings took place. Finn Nørgaard (played by Lars Brygmann) and Dan Uzan (played by Adam Buschard) were victims of the shooting, Omar El-Hussein (played by Albert Arthur Amiryan) carried out the shooting, and the worn-out police officer, Rico (played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who is a composite character, had an important role in the manhunt for El-Hussein. One characteristic that these four individuals share in the days prior to the terrorist attack is that they are all frustrated about the roadblocks in life that overwhelm their daily lives.

In 2018, two major motion pictures about the July 2011 terrorist attack in Norway were released. Paul Greengrass’ widely-seen English-language film 22 July and the Norwegian film Utøya 22. Juli from Norwegian filmmaker Erik Poppe. Both films were criticized, by some, for having been released too soon. Interestingly, they were really very different films. While I didn’t like his film, Greengrass’ film did an adequate job of explaining the events to audiences around the world, whereas Poppe’s film was unsettling but moving and effective. Poppe’s film was made to look like one continuous shot, and the film tried to show you the experience of being on Utøya, the Norwegian island where dozens of young men and women were murdered by Anders Behring Breivik.

Greengrass and Poppe had, to some extent, made films about the same thing, but their approaches were very different. These films were very interesting examples of the different ways you can make a film about the same true story. One was perhaps too superficial, whereas the other was entirely focused on the personal experiences of the victims. Now that Ole Christian Madsen, a Danish filmmaker, had decided to make a dramatization of the 2015 terrorist attack in Denmark, I was very interested to see which approach he had gone with. Unfortunately, I think the multi-narrative approach was the wrong way to tell this story since it appears that the script was not deep or strong enough to carry all four narratives.

Ole Christian Madsen’s film about the 2015 Copenhagen terrorist attack features a lot of close-up shots of its main characters’ faces or eyes, but Madsen and his co-writer Lars K. Andersen fail to express a rich understanding of the film’s characters. Furthermore, Andersen and Madsen’s script hinders the central actors’ performances. For one, Albert Arthur Amiryan and Adam Buschard don’t really have a lot to work with. The film doesn’t really try to give us that aforementioned understanding of Omar El-Hussein. This may very well be on purpose, but this thinly written character is a fairly significant problem since the film spends a lot of time alongside him. Buschard gets to play a very likable character who has a difficult time getting a job, which is very relatable, but, ultimately, you only get a superficial understanding of Dan Uzan.

However, I do think that Madsen found some success with ‘Finn Nørgaard’ played by Lars Brygmann. The scene where Nørgaard discusses free speech and the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack at a dinner-party is probably the most interesting scene in the entire film. However, generally, the film struggles to communicate a central message and much of the dialogue feels overwritten or hamfisted. This is especially a problem with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s character. Frankly, I don’t think this character was necessary for the film, and his inclusion only made the film more messy and unfocused. It’s a shame that an actor as popular and skilled as Coster-Waldau has been saddled with a character that just isn’t very interesting. When it comes to the shootings themselves, Madsen captures how sudden everything must’ve felt. But I was surprised to find out that, even though a police officer is a main character in the film, the manhunt isn’t really a focus of the film. I was also surprised by the fact that the film doesn’t feature a lot of scenes in the aftermath of the shootings.

There is a strong story here, but Ole Christian Madsen doesn’t fulfill the potential of that story. Ultimately, Ole Christian Madsen’s Krudttønden: The Day We Died is an unfocused and superficial multi-narrative drama with thinly written characters and unconvincing dialogue.

5.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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