Flame & Citron Ole Christian Madsen

Flame & Citron Ole Christian Madsen
Initially, the prospect of watching yet another biopic involving WWII feels like a gruelling, self-destructive act, given that there is a good 30 of these films flooding film festivals and art cinemas every year, preaching the evils of intolerance to an audience that never fully understands the true breadth and current social relevance. Thankfully, Flame & Citron is neither dry nor particularly didactic, playing as a sharp character thriller with brilliant writing, tense set pieces and some of the strongest performances to land on the big screen this year. It starts out generically enough, with two Danish resistance fighters and best friends, Flame (Thure Lindhardt) and Citron (Mads Mikkelsen), performing acts of sabotage against Nazi informers and other ill-doers, but ramps up when Citron botches an assassination attempt on a woman, leaving Flame to clean up the mess. It's all rather brutal and is complicated further by the suspicion that their targets may have more petty hierarchical relevance than wartime — a notion exacerbated by Flame's assignment to kill his secret girlfriend, Ketty (Stine Stengade). Conversations and wordless sequences that play with psychology and reaction, rather than doling out exposition, define these men, while their actions continually take them down a path from which they can never return. While increasingly shady and erratic, there is never confusion or frustration about their decisions, as motivations are implicit and refreshingly complex. Beyond these sharp characterizations, an uncompromising visceral sensibility, with daytime shootouts and vivid assassinations, keeps pacing and tension in check, recalling some of the great gangster movies, minus the genre's crass tendency to glamorize violence. While some may struggle with the consistently grim tone, others should appreciate a wholly cinematic film that knows we get that Nazis are bad, examining instead the psychological repercussions and aftermath of killing and subterfuge. No supplements are included with the DVD. (Mongrel Media)