Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Book-to-Movie: How Headhunters Fares


Anyone who’s ever read a great book--or even just a really good one--then looked forward to seeing the movie or TV version of same, knows what it’s like to be disappointed. Sure, there are some amazing adaptations out there (“Game of Thrones” and nearly all of the recent BBC adaptations of the classics, for instance), but the duds far outnumber them (“The DaVinci Code” was, at least, an interesting book, but the movie was like cruel-and-unusual torture, and “The Scarlet Letter” with Demi Moore was a really bad joke).

So, after reading Headhunters last month (see my review here), I made myself wait awhile before streaming the movie. Despite the overwhelmingly-positive reviews, the fear of being let down was just too strong. (Well, that, and the fact that it’s a Norwegian film, which means sub-titles, which is not my favorite-thing-ever, seeing as how I'm a face- and body-language-reader, which captioned dialogue doesn't make easy. [sigh])

After watching it earlier this week, though, I have to say it’s definitely one of the better adaptations--no, it's not perfect, but it keeps to the overall theme and feel of the book quite well, and offers up plenty of suspense and a few good chills.

The movie version of main character Roger Brown may not be exactly how I pictured him (nor does he ever come across as cocky as in the book), but actor Aksel Hennie makes the role his own, giving Roger a likability to balance his insecurity, with just a hint of the slick shyster. (Hennie reminds me of a blond, considerably-better-looking Steve Buscemi crossed with a younger Christopher Walken, which is kind of cool.) 

Synnøve Macody Lund, on the other hand, is pretty much how I pictured Roger’s wife Diana; she’s a tall, Nordic beauty, possessing more sweetness than one might assume of someone so used to being pandered to and getting her own way (in both book and movie). Very good performance. 

The only actor I was already familiar with (from “Game of Thrones”, as it happens) is Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, playing Roger’s nemesis, Clas Greve. Again, he really isn’t what I pictured (a little too young, a lot too handsome), yet he, too, inhabits the role so completely that I had no trouble putting aside my mental image of the character. Coster-Waldau is believably tough, intelligent, and arrogant (no surprise there, given his "GoT" work as Jamie Lannister), and he also brings a nicely-honed sense of frightening menace to the role.

So, if not at the hands of the actors (who were all quite good, actually, from those just mentioned to the most minor characters), where did I experience those “That’s not the way it’s supposed to be!” moments? With the things that got left out, or compressed... such as Roger’s extensive mental acrobatics while he’s at work. All that thinking--about an interviewee, about his wife, about his money problems, about his next heist--paints such a vivid portrait of who Roger is, in the book, that I really missed it in the movie. 

Another key difference--which I understand, since a movie needs more “show” than “tell”, but definitely miss, especially for chills-and-thrills suspense--is how and when we, the viewers, find out everything. (We’re privy early on to what will happen in the movie; in the book, those same actions come as a complete surprise, and we’re not made fully aware of the hows and whys of the surprise until after the fact, which is basically at the very end.)

Still, “Headhunters” the movie holds its own extremely well, and makes for a fun, smart, and entertaining evening... whether or not you’ve already read Headhunters the book. (Of course, you already know I highly recommend you read the book... but whether you read before or after the movie, I suspect you’ll really enjoy both.)

(Oh, and those subtitles? Didn’t bug me a bit, after about the first five minutes or so. :))  

GlamKitty Catnip Mousie Rating:  A Must-Watch (preferably whilst engaging in some bunnykicking-of-those-Mousies)