There have been a ton of films about the French resistance during World War II. But, apparently due to the vagaries of foreign-film distribution in the U.S., few films have reached American cinemas from other countries that also fought back against the Nazis during World War II.
Paul Verhoeven's The Black Book chronicled Dutch resistance in a luridly entertaining, cliffhanger manner. And now writer-director Ole Christian Madsen has resurrected a true story of Danish resistance with the fascinating thriller, Flame & Citron.
The title refers to the two central characters, code-named Flame (Thure Lindhardt) and Citron (Mads Mikkelsen), two fearless Nazi fighters who calmly assassinated collaborators who worked with the Nazis after the 1942 invasion of Denmark. Flame is so-called because of his dazzlingly red hair; Citron's sour demeanor seemingly accounted for his code name. Together, the pair were best friends and colleagues, fiercely committed to eliminating all traitors.
But that's the key to the tension in Madsen's film: Even as they carry out assignments - and chafe at orders from London that keep them from killing Nazis themselves, for fear of bringing greater pressure - they suddenly find that things are not as clear-cut as they would like to believe.
Is the police official who secretly heads the underground cadre really a straight-shooter? Or is he operating on another agenda? Can they believe him when he says that there's an informer in the group? And what of the double agent Ketty (Stine Stengade), who beds both Flame and the head of the local Gestapo? Where do her sympathies truly lie?
Madsen stages his action sequences with cold-blooded skill, creating concise, effective scenes of sudden, passionate violence - but violence that takes its toll on the perpetrator as well as the victim. Even the chilly Flame finds himself shaken at times, whether it's being forced to assassinate a woman (something at which he previously had drawn the line) or accidentally killing a child.
Lindhardt and Mikkelsen make a fascinating team - Lindhardt with his snarly grimace and swatch of coppery hair, Mikkelsen the more saturnine behind glasses and an unchangingly acidic expression. Stengade is appropriately slippery as Flame's love interest, who may or may not be double-dealing.
Flame & Citron is straightforward, brutal and exciting, a gripping tale of men ready for death in the face of unknowable treachery and a vicious enemy, but willing to fight for a cause nonetheless. It should be required viewing for any American politician considering an unprovoked war, who doesn't believe in the possibility and effectiveness of an insurgent movement.
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