Sons of Denmark

Reviewed by Pam Newns

Last Sunday's film at the Keswick film Club was 'Sons of Denmark'. In this, his debut feature film, director Ulaa Salim sets out deliberately to provoke, raise awareness and promote discussion. In this he succeeds, but I found that major flaws in the plot of this political thriller made it unconvincing.

The film starts promisingly, with a shock scene-setting terrorist bomb explosion in Copenhagen, followed by a realistic depiction of the radicalisation of Zakaria, a 19 year old Danish Iraqi, who wants to do something about the persecution of his community. It is 2025 and there has been a rise in activity of an underground white power group, the Sons of Denmark. A far-right Nationalist party is poised to win the election; Martin Nordahl, their leader spouts hateful rhetoric to inflame the situation whilst being careful to distance himself from the violent activists. Zakaria is recruited by an elder, Hassam, and assigned to a handler, Ali who will train him for his mission – the assassination of Martin Nordahl. However, the assassination attempt is thwarted and Zakaria captured, having been set up by Ali, a police informant.

The second half of the film centres round Malik (or Ali) the undercover police officer who turns out to have been instrumental in saving Nordahl's life, but ultimately ends up killing him. The twists and turns of the plot involve another police informant and, at the end, a rather gratuitous acid attack on Malik's wife who is supposedly under police protection. Where the storyline lacks most credibility is in the police procedures, such as open meetings and lack of protection for potential victims.  

I found much to admire – the creation of tension, the unexpected shifting of focus  between Zakaria, Malik and Nordahl, depiction of the main characters' interaction with their families, particularly Zakaria and his mother (she even packs him a lunchbox as he sets off on his terrorist journey). The director has a good ear for dialogue – when the ghastly xenophobic Nordahl comes to thank Malik for saving him he says "you're not like the others" – a phrase surely familiar to those from persecuted minorities. Zaki Youssef is effective in portraying Ali/Malik and there is some interesting juxtapositioning of effects, such as playing Mozart's Larimosa whilst showing blood-scrawled insults and pigs' heads left to intimidate inhabitants of the Arab neighbourhood. But ultimately the lack of credibility and some heavy handed scenes make it an over-long and unsatisfactory film.