Flame and Citron
(Flammen & Citronen)

Flame and Citron (Flammen & Citronen)
Made in: Denmark
Language: Danish, German
Director: Ole Christian Madsen
Starring: Thure Lindhardt, Mads Mikkelsen, Stine Stengade, Peter Mygind, Christian Berkel, Mille Lehfeldt
Year: 2008

Synopsis: Loosely based on actual events, the film takes place In Nazi occupied Denmark and centers around two members of the Holger Danske resistance group. One is a young man named Bent Faurschou-Hviid (Thure Lindhardt), nicknamed "Flame" because of his copper-reddish hair.

The other is Jørgen Haagen Schmith (Mads Mikkelsen), aka "Citron," because he had once worked for the Citroën car company in Copenhagen. While there, Jørgen is said to have sabotaged German vehicles.

Bent and Jørgen are highly feared, as they are known for assassinating Nazi collaborators. They are unflinching and ruthless in their task, with Bent as triggerman and Jørgen responsible for driving the getaway car. Their cell is under the leadership of Aksel Winther (Peter Mygind), who takes orders directly from British Intelligence.

Bent is itching to take out a man named Hoffman (Christian Berkel), the local head of the Gestapo. But Winther strictly forbids this course of action. Their orders are to target only collaborators, and not Germans out of fear of serious retaliation against civilians.

But when Bent becomes involved with the alluring Ketty Selmer (Stine Stengade), who may be a double agent, things start becoming very complicated.

Bent and Jørgen come across information suggesting that they're merely being used as pawns to satisfy Winther's ulterior motives. Furthermore, they feel hamstrung by competing resistance groups, plus there's an informant somewhere in their group.

Soon, the fog of doubt and brutal nature of war gives rise to conflicting emotions about their cause. And to Bent's surprise, he learns that the situation is no different for many of his intended Nazi targets.

Remarks: Flame and Citron is a methodical, intense drama that is utterly unpredictable. Thure Lindhardt and Mads Mikkelsen are excellent as the protagonists, and they brilliantly convey the many emotional twists that their characters encounter.

In fact, the entire cast is great now that I think of it. The renowned Christian Berkel has a relatively small but very effective role as Hoffman (even though he always seems to get stuck playing Nazis), and Stine Stengade brings real substance and mystery to her character.

The most powerful part of Flame and Citron is the perspective director Ole Christian Madsen chooses to take with respect to World War II. Undoubtedly, many films portraying this time period focus mostly on the evils of the Nazi regime.

An understandable approach, but it's been done so often that there isn't much out there that will surprise most filmgoers.

Madsen, however, depicts war as a horrific event that indiscriminately consumes everyone. He's able to draw you in and see things from Bent's point of view, and the journey is truly harrowing. And Madsen accomplishes this without a shred of preachiness or self indulgence.

Who would like this film: Flame and Citron is for you if you're a fan of foreign films, actor Mads Mikkelsen, and if you're interested in the history of World War II. Although it's very intense and exciting, this is a slow-paced (but not boring) story.

This isn't a common Good "Guys vs Bad Guys" story. Although the film allows you to think that way at first, it later shows, that in the middle of war, things are rarely that simple.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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