'Exit Plan' Is Wonderfully Nordic but Totally Confusing Directed by Jonas Alexander Arnby
Published Jun 22, 2020Exit Plan (or Suicide Tourist, as it was originally titled in its native Denmark) may not be the most coherent thriller, it's certainly one of the most Nordic. Majestic, darkly-lit mountain ranges, warmly burning fireplaces, and a general sense of hygge-ness pervade the whole thing. Rather than emoting cozy feels, though, Exit Plan is dark and weird, with the awkward coldness of its Swedish cousin Force Majeure but without the dark comedy. It's a bleak movie with an impressively alien atmosphere, but it's difficult to stay invested when it makes so little sense.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (who was Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones) plays against type as the introverted, socially stilted insurance adjuster Max. He has a pleasant, if dispassionate, relationship with his wife Lærke (Annihilation's Tuva Novotny), and a stable job, but the relative normalcy of his life is disrupted when he learns he has an inoperable brain tumour.
Under the guise of investigating a missing client, Max travels to the remote, craggy mountains of an unnamed Scandanavian resort called the "Hotel Aurora". The Hotel Aurora, we soon learn, isn't your average Nordic spa — its inhabitants are actually here to die. By choice, that is: the Hotel Aurora offers pain-free assisted suicide for its terminally ill or otherwise death-seeking guests.
Max checks into the hotel without having entirely made up his mind about whether or not he wants to go through with checking out, as it were. But as he reflects on his life and his renewed relationship with his wife, to whom he hasn't been able to reveal the truth about his tumour, his resolve fades — but the hotel itself seems to have other ideas.
There are intriguing ideas floating through Exit Plan, and the concept itself is an interesting one. Despite a lengthy setup, not much of the film follows a linear story, instead becoming a meditative character study that reflects on mortality and loss. Set against the backdrop of endless mountains and sky, the sprawling minimalist wood and glass of the Hotel Aurora, and the Northern Lights, Max's story feels especially existential. But the narrative starts to blur as the film jumps back and forth in time, from important beats in Max's life to his eerie existence at the Aurora, plus a late-stage twist that brings Max's mysterious missing insurance client back into the mix — a decision that seems at odds with the character-centric tone of the film's first half. The timeline gets more surreal, as we sense that some of what we're watching might be a hallucination or a buried memory, but maybe it's not.
There aren't many answers at the end of Exit Plan, which makes sticking through this very slow and occasionally morbid film difficult at times. The atmosphere can occasionally be captivating, but "spooky hygge vibes" isn't really enough to carry an entire movie. (levelFILM)