In some ways Northwest could be written off as another movie about how crime doesn’t pay. There’s an escalation of criminal activity, there’s the brief taste of a modest sweet life, there’s the tragic inflation of egos, and there’s a sense that the lives of our protagonists were doomed from the start. Things were going to be bad for this poor Danish family regardless, so the events of the film just accelerated the process of inevitable bad ends.
And yet Northwest transcends the trap of being just another crime film. There’s something raw to what happens in every scene, from the performances to the look of the film. The handheld photography situates the viewer right in the muck of what’s going on, which made me think about episodes of Cops, or like these people were being tailed by an invisible news crew.
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Director: Michael Noer
Release Date: TBD
Caspar (Gustav Dyekjær Giese) lives with his family in a rough part of Copenhagen. He’s a petty thief who makes a living by breaking into houses, taking whatever he can, and selling the goods to a local heavy. The jobs aren’t particularly sophisticated, and they don’t pay all that well either, but it’s a living. Caspar’s life takes a turn for the better — before making a big dip downward — when he gets involved with another crime boss and then gets his brother Andy (Oscar Dyekjær Giese) involved. It starts with driving hookers to their johns, but it becomes much more complicated as the film goes on.
The sense of reality in Northwest is thanks in large part to director Micharl Noer. Northwest is only his second narrative feature, but he has a background in documentary filmmaking, which serves this grim and gritty story well. At least half of the found footage films made today should take note: dump the idea of being found footage and simply go handheld like this. It makes the movie visceral without any of the difficult contrivances of found footage films. An additional sense of truth comes from the two first-time actors playing Caspar and Andy, who are real-life brothers and naturals on screen. The rest of the cast also feel authentic; there’s character to their faces and mannerisms, and the acting is inhabited rather than affected.
There’a one point in Northwest where Caspar and Andy share a quiet moment together. It’s late at night after a job and they’ve only just begun their downward spiral, but things are going great for now. Brief triumph in lives that have known little of it. Andy finishes off a Red Bull and tosses the can away. Noer’s camera holds steady and observes as the can rolls down a sloping bit of concrete into the shadows. The pull of gravity and the nature of momentum is unstoppable, the darkness seems infinite. These two brothers are about to make a similar journey. The Red Bull can gets off easy by comparison.