Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen has a new film out later this week called Riders of Justice, which reunites him with director Anders Thomas Jensen, after collaborating on The Green Butchers, Adam’s Apples and Men and Chicken. Whatever film he is in, be it in his native Denmark or in his international efforts, Mikkelsen consistently puts in a strong performance and his filmography covers a vast array of genres. He has been often typecast for his villainous roles but Mikkelsen is capable and has proved himself in a wider range of characters and performances as one could be led to believe.
Here, I will reveal my top five performances in films that have featured Mikkelsen. These choices are based on both his performance in them and their quality.
5) The Salvation
This was a toss-up between this film and The Three Musketeers, the latter a rather controversial choice but the film is great fun and Mikkelsen makes for a devious Rochefort. The Salvation is a Western which finds Mikkelsen playing Jon, a Danish settler who has emigrated to the United States and his family arrive seven years later. Unfortunately, the family’s reunion is short-lived after an ill-fated stagecoach journey and Mikkelsen finds himself on a path of revenge and destruction against the villainous Delarue, gleefully portrayed by the also underrated Jeffrey Dean Morgan. The Salvation is a lean and mean Western that doesn’t particularly reinvent the genre but largely succeeds on Mikkelsen’s barnstorming performance.
4) Another Round
Currently in cinemas, although you may need to seek it out (and I suggest you do!), Another Round is a high concept tragicomedy from director Thomas Vinterberg. These qualities are shared by three of his close friends who also teach in the same school – sports teacher Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), music teacher Peter (Lars Ranthe) and psychology teacher Nikolaj (Magnus Millang). When they meet up to celebrate Nikolaj’s 40th birthday in an up-market restaurant, they get very drunk. One of them brings up the subject of a theory by Norwegian psychologist Finn Skårderud who opined that humanity performs best when they have a blood alcohol content of 0.05%. Martin decides to put this theory to the test one day whilst teaching and he finds that he has a much closer relationship with his pupils. The rest of the group decide to join in and they all have similarly positive results. They start to record their results in an academic journal that they curate and as the film progresses, they slowly up the alcohol level to explore the effects. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they discover that the benefits start to stagnate the more they drink and they eventually reach the road of self-destruction, with both comedic and devastating consequences.
Another Round is often infectiously humorous and the relationship between the four teachers is developed very authentically and they have fantastic chemistry. The film is equally depressing at times when we witness the dire consequences alcohol can have on these teachers. The first two thirds of the film is particularly beautifully crafted but it loses its footing in the final third somewhat. The final act negates the message of the first two acts and Vinterberg seems to be unsure in his argument of whether alcohol has a positive or negative influence. Mikkelsen is typically excellent in the role, who portrays Martin with a potent world-weariness and a tinge of sadness. He is an easy character to care for as he learns to live again many times in the film. (Full review here)
A wildly controversial choice as Polar got absolutely trashed by critics in its reviews. A Netflix Original, Polar is a revenge thriller in the vein of John Wick and Taken with Mads Mikkelsen playing the action hero with spectacular results. The film is utterly bonkers and what is impressive is how it manages to balance sheer grittiness and savage ultraviolence with its ridiculous tone. The decision to cast Matt Lucas as the over-the-top villain is a stroke of genius and the result is a film that I really got on board with.
2) Casino Royale
Mikkelsen’s big Hollywood break came in the form of James Bond where he is put against Daniel Craig in his debut film. Casino Royale rejuvenated the franchise after the disastrous Die Another Day, a film that rebooted Bond for the modern day audience with its grittier and darker tone. Mikkelsen plays Le Chiffre, an expert poker player who suffers from a blood-weeping eye. Mikkelsen makes for a nasty villain, who for much of the run time, taunts Bond intellectually. There is a particularly grisly torture sequence late in the film for Le Chiffre to further open up, which makes for satisfyingly uncomfortable viewing.
1) The Hunt
By far and away Mads Mikkelsen’s career pinnacle, The Hunt is a masterclass of a drama from director Thomas Vinterberg. Mikkelsen plays Lucas, a daycare employee, who is falsely accused of indecently exposing himself to a child. The film follows the community turn against him and Lucas is treated quite terribly, as he tries to prove his innocence. This film packs an emotional wallop and Lucas goes through hell, his world-weary and slitted eyes wearing guilt that he shouldn’t have. If you haven’t seen The Hunt, go and watch it immediately as it is not just Mikkelsen’s best performance or Vinterberg’s best film but it is one of the best films of the 2010s.
So there we go. What do you think? What did I miss? If you haven’t watched any of these films, I’d highly recommend you do so as they’re all really worthwhile and I’m sure Mikkelsen’s career will continue to be a fascinating one, especially with the untitled Fantastic Beasts sequel where he will replace Johnny Depp as the main antagonist of the series, Grindelwald.
Riders of Justice is released in UK cinemas on Friday 23rd July