Reviewed by GREG KING

Last updated July 17 2016.

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“Africa is the graveyard of ambition.” And so it proves for Danish botanist Wulff Frederik Wulff (played by Norwegian actor Jakob Oftebro, from the tv series Lilyhammer, etc) who is sent to the Danish colony of Guinea in west Africa to create a coffee plantation. When he arrives there Wulff is full of optimism and hope, but he soon confronts the ugly realities and the shameful enterprise of the slave trade. Although Denmark was one of the first countries to ban the slave trade back in 1702, it still used slave labour in its colonies from Africa to the East Indies.
At first Wulff works with the slaves and tries to teach them how to become self sufficient. When his early attempts to grow coffee are thwarted by resistance from the Ashanti tribes he brokers a deal with the powerful but despotic Hans Richter (Wakefield Ackuaku). He forms a bond with Lumpa (John Aggrey), a young slave boy, and teaches him about science, which eventually opens his eyes to the injustices of colonialism and its reliance on slave labour. Richter turns out to be a ruthless slave trader who brands his slaves. With the approval of the ineffectual and gravely ill local governor (Morten Holst) Wulff tries to arrest Richter. This makes him an enemy in the form of the ambitious Dall (Anders Heinrichsen). Wulff embarks on his own journey into a heart of darkness as he tackles the slave trade in this remote colonial outpost.
This Danish drama offers up a critique of the consequences of colonialism and is a somewhat ambitious undertaking. There have been many films that have explored the horrors of slavery and the slave trade, including the Oscar winning 12 Years A Slave, but Gold Coast is one of the few European films to delve into the subject. While the film has its heart in the right place it unfortunately resorts to the familiar cliche of having an educated white man become the liberator of the slaves.
It marks the fictional feature directorial debut for documentarian and editor Daniel Dencik, the brother of actor David Dencik. Co-writer Sara Isabella Jonsson Vedde has based the film on a series of letters that Wulff (a real life character) wrote home to his fiancee in Copenhagen, but she and Dencik have taken a number of liberties with the facts for dramatic purposes. The film also features a strong performance from Oftebro in a demanding role; he loses a lot of weight here and he convincingly portrays Wulff’s mental decline and deteriorating health.  Some of the secondary characters are somewhat one dimensional, in particular the villainous Richter and Dall.
Gold Coast was shot on location in Ghana, and certainly looks good thanks to the beautiful widescreen cinematography of Martin Munch. There are a few flashbacks to Wulff’s life in Copenhagen with his fiancee, and these are shot in soft focus and warm golden tones. Some of the lyrical visuals will remind audiences of the work of Terrence Malick. David Lynch’s regular composer Angelo Badalamenti has created an evocative and haunting and strangely anachronistic electronic score for the film.


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Written and directed by Martin Zandvliet, Land Of Mine is a powerful, intense and involving drama set in Denmark after the end of WWII. And as unlikely as it seems, it is based on a true story. After the war, some 1.5 million land mines littered Denmark’s beaches. They had been planted by the Nazis to deter allied landings. But there were so many mines that apparently the Danish government was unable to declare beaches safe until 2012, nearly seventy years after the war ended. Land Of Mine focuses on one group of German teens, captured by the Allies, who are forced to locate and defuse some 45000 mines. It is dangerous work as they could explode at any time. The boys were told that they would be repatriated to Germany after they had finished their work. An end title card informs us that half of those conscripted for this dangerous duty died. Slowly the boys begin to bond over their shared danger, and a few hijinks at the end of every day they survive. They are supervised by the embittered Danish sergeant Rassmussen (played by Roland Moller, from the tense drama A Hijacking, etc), a tough taskmaster whose feelings towards his charges slowly changes. He reluctantly begins to feel responsible for the boys. Director Zandvliet is a former editor who knows how to expertly ratchet up the tension. The film has been superbly shot by cinematographer Camilla Helm who captures some haunting images. Land Of Mine is a harrowing and emotionally draining drama as we come to genuinely feel for the fate of the boys, who are terrified and just want to go home. The characters are well drawn, and the largely unknown youthful cast deliver strong performances. This is  a powerful war movie that ranks up there with The Hurt Locker.


The Wave review

THE WAVE is the first disaster movie from Norway, and it is every bit as good as those epics served up by Hollywood (Earthquake, The Towering Inferno, etc), albeit on a limited budget (around $4 million) and without the star power. Norway is full of fjords and mountains, but several times in the past an avalanche has caused a tsunami which has wiped out low lying villages and wreaked devastation. Although the last such tragedy was over fifty years ago, geologists believe that another such disaster could occur at any time. Using this as a starting point, director Roar Uthuag (Applause, etc) and writers John Kaare Raake and Harald Rosenlow-Eeg deliver a suspenseful and involving action film. Geologist Kristian (Kristoffer Joner, from The Revenant, etc) is one of many specialists monitoring the mountain system above the picturesque town of Geiranger. At first Kristian is the only person who suspects that disaster is imminent. Flashing monitors warn of dropping water levels, that spell potential for catastrophe. Initially his warnings fall on deaf ears as apparently the tourism driven economy is more important. When disaster strikes, the massive 85 metre tidal wave sweeps towards the town of Geiranger. The population have ten minutes to evacuate and reach higher ground before the wall of water swamps it. Uthuag, a former director of music videos, brings plenty of visual style to the film and delivers plenty of suspense and action. He uses the usual tropes of the genre to serve up a wonderfully involving story that shows the full destructive force of mother nature. The special effects that create the wave and the devastation after a whole village has been virtually decimated are excellent. The film has been beautifully shot by cinematographer John Cristian Rosenlund. But Uthuag also serves up a more human story as Kristian tries to find and rescue his family in the aftermath. His wife and teenage son are trapped in the flooded bomb shelter beneath the hotel where she works. Although the film is admittedly cliched in its structure and ticks all the usual boxes, Uthuag develops some strong sense of character so that we feel for them. We feel for Kristian and his desperate efforts to save his family. Uthuag could teach Roland Emmerich a thing or two about restraint when it comes to disaster movie.


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