Sunday, March 24, 2019

BUFF ’19: The Unthinkable

What happens when a paranoid invasion thriller comes out of the country that gave us Ingmar Bergman and Lukas Moodysson? You can expect some serious angst. Alex, an emotionally damaged electro-experimental musician, has enough neuroses for all of Scandinavia. However, the mysterious crisis that befalls Sweden might just be the catalyst that reconnects him with his estranged father and the great love of his life in filmmaking collective Crazy Pictures’ The Unthinkable, which screens today during the 2019 Boston Underground Film Festival.

Alex and Anna were once a thing, but he let his family strife and resulting mental hang-ups undermine their pastoral teen romance. Years later, he is an arrogant musician (specializing in distorted piano stylings), who is out of touch with most of his old friends and family. Yet, he happens to cross paths with Anna again just as strange things start going down—like explosions in transportation hubs, drivers losing control of their cars, and planes falling out of the sky.

Everyone automatically accepts Daesh’s statement taking credit for the explosions, except Alex’s father Björn, who is good at connecting seemingly unrelated dots, because he is a paranoid conspiracy loon. He has some ideas about who might be responsible. Not to be spoilery, but they rhyme with Gagamir Spewton. Alas, the scruffy nutter hasn’t been wrong yet, much to his chagrin.

Unthinkable is basically a disaster melodrama that incorporates a handful of genre elements, but Crazy Pictures deftly keeps raising the stakes and cranking up the tension (and the family drama). Look hard enough and you can find elements of Red Dawn, X-Files, and Autumn Sonata. Frankly, Alex is more than a bit of a pill, who quickly taxes our patience, but it is rather fascinating to watch the older, wiser Björn suss out to the dastardly plot afoot.

There are also some remarkably well-coordinated scenes of multiple car collisions and plummeting helicopters, both in terms of special effects and stunt work. Unthinkable has stuff that can hang with most of what you find in Roland Emmerich’s latest films. Alas, it also has dreary old Alex.

If you want to see moody and petulant, then brother, Christoffer Nordenrot delivers it in spades as miserable Alex. On the other hand, Jesper Barkselius shows tremendous range as Björn, running the gamut from cringy abusive parent to remorseful alienated crank. Lisa Henni is also somewhat bland as Anna, but they are Swedish after all, and big, earth-shaking spectacles are usually not the most flattering actor’s showcases.

Perhaps the scariest thing about Unthinkable is how realistic it is, especially the closing coda, which clearly implies who is most likely the responsible supper-villain. It certainly establishes how much of a bummer Armageddon could be, yet it makes it all look tremendously cinematic. Recommended for fans of apocalyptic cinema, The Unthinkable screens tonight (3/24), as the closing selection of this year’s BUFF.