🇸🇪 RED DOT 🇸🇪
⚠️ This review contains mild spoilers ⚠️
Red Dot (2021) is a Swedish drama, horror, thriller film on Netflix internationally. 1 hr 26 min. 15 Cert U.K. Available with subtitles and dubbing.
“On a hiking trip to rekindle their marriage, a couple find themselves fleeing for their lives in the unforgiving wilderness from an unknown shooter.”
Nanna Blondell as Nadja
Anastasios Soulis as David
Johannes Kuhnke as Einar
Kalled Mustonen as Jarmo
Thomas Hanzon as Thomas
Anna Azcárate as Mona
Tomas Bergström as Rolle
Mervin Solin as Olof
Johan Hedman as Police Officer
Veronica Mukka as Mountain Rescue Central Voice
Per Mårthans as Principal
Peter Borossy as Radio Voice
Director: Alain Darborg
Cinematographer: Benjam Orre
Writers: Alain Darborg & Per Dickson
Editor: Magnus Häll
Music: Carl-Johan Sevedag
Make-up: Mikael Andersson, Sara Hogg, Malin Roos, Inga Roos & Therese Sanderson
VFX: Gusten Blick, Johan Harnesk, Emil Larsson, Janne Lindqvist, David Peter, Mats Sonnesjö and Joel Uhr
Alain Darborg was the director of 9 episodes of the series Alex (All4 Walter Presents U.K., MHZ Choice US)
Benjam Orre was the cinematographer on Alex and Spring Tide
Carl-Johan Sevedag was the composer for Top Dog, Alex and Borg McEnroe. He won the Best Music Award at Canneseries 2020 for Top Dog
I have had my laser beam on Red Dot for months now. The first-ever Swedish film production for Netflix, a director with work I was familiar with and enjoyed, a great cast with names I knew, plus new talent.
I first watched Red Dot on the day it was released on Netflix (I could not wait!) and I really enjoyed it. However, I have now rewatched it and, unlike many movies, this not only stands up to being watched again but is even better, smarter and more impressive upon subsequent viewing.
Looking at the two lead roles first: Nadja is training to be a doctor, pregnant but unsure whether she and David should be parents at all. Nanna Blondell greatly impressed me (for what it’s worth) in her first lead role. The physical and emotional demands of this role are there for all to see.
David qualifies as an engineer who enjoys playing Battlefield. We find out that he runs away from things, bumps into a car and drives away, hints at things done. The acting range from Anastasios Soulis is excellent and again physically demanding with great characterisation and emotional depth.
The supporting cast are really solid throughout. This is not a big cast (just look at the list above) but everyone does a top-notch job in this.
I liked that this film opens with a battered and bloodied aftermath and then goes back 18 months to far happier times (definitely far less blood featuring!) By knowing from the start that all is not going to be champagne, roses and cuddly puppies this creates an immediate tension to the narrative and the direction that the story is going to take. This does not always work well in TV shows and movies, but here it does.
These are townsfolk who have their own prejudices and a real lack of awareness of living in the mountains/rural areas, this lack of experience is demonstrated through some of their very dubious choices. Note: do not venture out into the wilderness of the Swedish mountains without a weapon or knowing how to put up your tent! And those are just for starters…
The two men Nadja and David encounter at the petrol station and later are hunters and locals and both Nadja and David assume that they are racist “inbreds”. There is a warning from the barman and response of the barmaid when they arrive which is unsettling. It is this feeling of everything being “not right” and not perhaps what it seems that pervades the majority of this film.
The first 20 minutes establishes both the main characters the supporting characters and the context, along with the foundations for the trip into the mountains itself. About 25 minutes into the movie we see that laser red dot from a rifle for the first time, on the tent in which they are spending their night.
The reactions of the two protagonists as it continues is interesting as they are made to feel and to recognise their own roles in what is happening to them. Flashbacks are used to very good effect and as a viewer, it is worth taking notice of what Nadja’s flashbacks focus upon. The panic attack David suffers which focusses on one song followed by a hallucination is a major reveal.
The choices in direction and cinematography in this are often stunning, with beautiful scenes in the mountains when they are first skiing across and setting up camp. All quite idyllic (or so it seems…) The Northern Lights with light in tent “pinging” visually, the flare in the sky over the couple and the snow-covered landscape, the figures walking through a wide foggy landscape are all particularly beautiful shots. The use of handheld camerawork is incredibly effective in bringing an immediacy to the events. Filming conditions for cast and crew must have been very demanding at times.
The choice of naturalistic lighting combined with choices which feel organic, such as the flares, or the hurricane lamp in the cabin is really good. The colour palette changes when they are cold and stressed and “hunted”. The editing is crisp and clear and any flashbacks are easy to follow. I just loved the sound design and the music score is excellent and how they combined so well with the visuals on-screen. Poor sound design and score can ruin a film or TV show for me, these were both excellent. There is some fabulous work by make-up on the injury details, they look truly painful. (Stitching up certainly made me wince). There are also some really good special effects in this movie and some tasty stunt work.
Red Dot plays with what we might expect from this genre, and certainly, we are lead along a path (as are Nadja and David) that there is a Deliverance combined with Eden Lake “thing” going on. There is a twist in this story which I am desperately trying to avoid spoiling for first-time watchers.
I have read complaints that this twist comes from nowhere, it doesn’t! This is a film where, if you pay attention throughout, there are very many clues dropped. Fans of the genre will realise that a dog being included is… well… there for a reason.
This movie reminded me a little of Fargo in how simple actions and bad decisions snowball with catastrophic results. How grief and revenge can drive people to do terrible things is another major theme along with cowardice, an inability to face up to responsibility for ones own actions and a very wonky moral compass.
Overall I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending this new movie. The production itself is classy and has excellent acting throughout. The storyline is different from the usual for this genre and it brings something new to the table. If you are not into horror-thrillers then this will probably not be for you. Also to bear in mind is that this is a first feature from the young director and is very much an indie movie made on a limited budget (albeit financed by Netflix) under difficult conditions and during Covid. Nurturing emerging talent is not a bad thing.
Red Dot is a film that worked even better for me watching it for a second time. I missed a lot the first time and knowing the outcome changes the whole perspective when watching.
“We haven’t done anything, okay”. Here’s where the chickens come home to roost!
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