Originally the title The heyday is now coming, The Unthinkable was completed in 2018. That it took three years to reach these beaches in no way reflects the quality of the film – or lack of it. But global circumstances brought with them an unexpected, even remarkable, timeliness in the story, and it is no surprise that an American distributor (in this case Magnolia Pictures) would acquire it for American distribution.
The award-winning film marks a successful film debut for its director, Victor Danell, and his film-making collective, aptly named Crazy Pictures. It has a range and a sweep that overrides its tendency to elongate and an sometimes harsh tone.
The film opens in 2005, with Christoffer Nordenrot (who makes his debut as a screenwriter) playing Alex, a disillusioned teenager who struggles with struggling parents and a desperate love for his neighbor, Anna (Lisa Henni).
After a quarrel with his father Björn (the fantastic Jesper Barkselius), a conspiracy theorist whose ranting constantly rages on him, Alex storms out of the house – apparently for good.
The film then jumps forward several years, with Alex who has succeeded as a musician, but he is unfulfilled, still stuck in the memories of Anna and his shattered past.
It is at this time that a series of inexplicable, violent explosions rock Sweden. Terrorism is suspected, but by whom? Sweden’s Riksdag convenes to debate the issue, which becomes a (very) point when the parliament building is completely destroyed. Martial law is declared, and the population – who are still not entirely sure what is happening – are thrown into mass panic.
What’s more, the enemy’s forces – and it has never been clarified by their origins – begin to implement what can be described as a “burnt-humanity” policy and spread an airborne virus that causes its victims to suffer symptoms similar to amnesia or dementia.
This is where director Danell really comes into his own and shows an undeniable sense of action and spectacle. The CGI special effects are realized live (although the seams sometimes show), but Danell never loses humanity from the core in The unthinkable. That the enemy is never identified is almost temporary. This will be a study of human courage and resilience, conveyed in mostly credible terms. That some of the events on the screen reflect actual historical is fascinating in retrospect. It’s almost as if Danell predicted the COVID-19 pandemic and the political turmoil that resulted.
When Sweden’s social structure collapses, Alex manages to return home and be reunited with Anna, but it is a matter of course that their relationship cannot continue, for reasons beyond the destruction that rages around them. She has moved on with her life. She could not wait for him anymore. She still cares about him, but it’s a little too late.
Alex can also be reunited with Björn, whose paranoid conspiracy theories he has been spraying for years no longer seem unthinkable. Björn may not have been a great dad, but his preparations for the end of the world prove to be a wise move — and may be enough to save the few people, including Alex and Anna, who have managed to reach his high-tech, booby-trapped bunker among chaos and devastation.
In addition to its impressive action sequences and its relevant story, The unthinkable is thoughtful fare. Unlike Lars von Triers Melancholy (2011), to which it has certain thematic similarities, The unthinkable avoids pretentious observations of the human condition. It is an exciting and effective, which captures and conveys a mood that is true during these troubled times. (In Swedish with English subtitles)
– The unthinkable is available on demand and streaming on Apple TV, DirecTV, Google Play, Prime Video, FandangoNow and more. It’s also available on DVD ($ 26.98 retail), packed with bonus features, from Magnet Label / Magnolia Home Entertainment.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies at Burgervideo.com. © 2021, Mark Burger.