Thursday, June 11, 2020

Exit Plan: The Hotel of Your Final Departure

People check into the assisted suicide hotel, but they don’t check out. That is the whole idea, yet one guest is surprised to discover the place might be run by killers. Nonetheless, you have to admire the guts of any distributor willing to pick up a thriller that could diminish viewer enthusiasm for euthanasia. The staff of the Hotel Aurora is indeed determined to carry about business with Scandinavian efficiency in Jonas Alexander Arnby’s Exit Plan, which releases tomorrow on VOD.

Max Isaksen is so boring, he isn’t even leading a life a quiet desperation, until he is diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor. After the insurance adjustor investigates the claim of a woman whose husband apparently availed himself of the Hotel Aurora’s services, Isaksen books a room for himself. However, he never really shares a proper moment of closure with his wife Lærke, which weighs heavily on him. Isaksen even starts having second thoughts, even though the Aurora staff discourages such thinking.

In some ways, Exit Plan is like The Suicide Club, with a pinch of David Lynch and décor courtesy of the Danish Design Store. This is one frosty, Nordic film that never caters to conventional thriller audiences. Yet, it is its vibe of soul-deadening alienation and profound existential implications are exactly what make it so unsettling. No matter how you feel about euthanasia, you never want to visit the Aurora.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau drabs himself down admirably as the reserved Isaksen, who could almost pass for a Dickensian scrivener. It is not just a physical thing, even though the 1970’s era glasses and moustache render the Game of Thrones star nearly unrecognizable. He also projects a sense of deep sadness.

It is fortunate Coster-Waldau is so good as Isaksen, because he largely carries the film on his shoulders. There are plenty of counselors and minders working in the Aurora, but not even the usually wild-looking Jan Bijvoet makes an appreciable impression. That includes Tuva Novotny too, who seems weirdly aloof, even by Scandinavian standards, as Lærke.

Regardless, Arnby undeniably puts his stamp on this film. It is just as hypnotic as When Animals Dream, but in a different, less disorienting fashion. It defiantly problematizes reality in ways that will limit its commercial appeal, but it deserves the open-minded attention of adventurous cult films patrons. Recommended for fans of very dark Nordic noir, Exit Plan releases tomorrow (6/12) on VOD.