Interrogations are always the best part of any crime series. Two people in a room, each one trying to get the better of the other; it’s drama in its purest form. There’s been a lot of classic interrogation scenes over the years, but with a radical concept that puts the clash between cop and criminal at the very heart of the drama and with an all-star cast to flesh it out, Face To Face just might have them all beat.
When Copenhagen investigator Bjørn (Ulrich Thomsen) arrives at the morgue for an ordinary identification of a newly discovered corpse, he has no idea that his world is about to be torn apart. To his horror, the dead girl turns out to be his estranged daughter Christina (played in a nice twist by Thomsen’s real-life daughter, Alma Ekehed Thomsen).
Coroner Frank (Lars Ranthe) rules her death a suicide. Bjørn refuses to accept it. He might have lost touch with his daughter in the last few years, but he still knows her well enough to know the pieces around her death just don’t add up. All it takes is one tiny clue to send him on a hunt to find out what really happened on the night she lost her life – and attempt to bring the real killer to justice.
It’s no surprise that Face To Face attracted many of Denmark’s biggest names in acting. Over eight tightly wound half-hour episodes, Bjørn will encounter and interview a range of people who knew or had dealings with his daughter – each one hopefully bringing him closer to solving the case. Each episode focuses on one conversation, which basically takes place in real time in one location. Each verbal sparring match is its own tense, almost claustrophobic scene, as Bjørn tries to get at a truth that’s increasingly hard to pin down.
The big names start with Thomsen himself. He’s an international star, having appeared in James Bond film The World Is Not Enough, Brad Pitt film Killing Them Softly and as the main villain in US crime drama Banshee alongside a string of performances in Scandinavian films, including the lead in 2016’s award-winning The Commune.
Appearing opposite him in individual episodes are some of the biggest names in Nordic drama. Multiple award-winning actress Trine Dyrholm is perhaps best known for her role in the Academy-awarding winning thriller In A Better World and two series of Danish TV series The Legacy; she also appeared alongside Thomsen in The Commune.
Søren Malling was a regular on Borgen and was the level-headed Inspector Jan Meyer in the Danish version of The Killing; David Dencik has a major role in the next James Bond film and has also appeared in Australian series Top Of The Lake: China Girl, Tinker Tailor Solider Spy and the US version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. He was also Mikhail Gorbachev in Chernobyl.
Nikolaj Lie Kaas has a memorable appearance here as a shady nightclub owner with a lengthy list of things to hide; he’s also been in everything from The Killing to the Da Vinci Code sequel Angels and Demons to the Tom Hardy thriller Child 44. And Lars Mikkelsen, older brother of Mads and with a very impressive beard here, is best known for his television work on everything from The Killing to series three of Borgen to The Team to House Of Cards.
Getting one or two actors at this level would have been a coup; having a cast full of them makes this a real showcase for Scandinavia’s top performers.
Co-written by director Christoffer Boe and acclaimed playwright Jakob Weis, these aren’t your usual police interrogations. Bjørn’s authority here is shaky, and everyone knows it. He’s running this case on his own without official support, and it was no secret among Christina’s friends and colleagues that she didn’t get along with her cop father, so he can’t exactly go around acting like the grieving father. His neglect gives them the ammunition they need to go to work on him, and the conversations don’t always go the way he’d like.
Right from his first encounter he’s on the back foot. Retracing Christina’s final movements, he arrives at a luxury apartment where he meets a young woman (Clara Rosager) who he quickly discovers is his daughter’s wife. It turns out Christina was living life in the fast lane, indulging in drugs and parties – and turning to prostitution and crime to finance it all. No wonder then that just about everyone Bjørn encounters has a possible motive for wanting her dead; this is the kind of whodunnit that’ll leave you guessing right up until the final ten minutes.
There’s also the matter of Bjørn himself. He’s not just doing this out of a sense of duty, though his drive for justice is always there. Right from the quietly devastating scene early on where he recognises the corpse, it’s clear this is as much a quest to find out where he went so wrong in his own life that he could have left his daughter to drift so far away from him as it is to find her killer.
It’s an irony that lies at the heart of Bjørn’s search; while he’s asking everyone else the questions, the answers he’s really looking for are ones only he can provide.
Face To Face is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
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