As with most internationally successful Nordic films from the last decade or more, Stellan Skarsgård is our leading man in the subtly, darkly comic revenge tale that is In Order of Disappearance. However, to call the film comic may be a little deceptive to those not familiar with the type of thrillers that countries like Norway have acquired a taste for in recent years. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Headhunters are two such films; the latter especially, in that it shares In Order’s gallows humour and Norwegian roots.
Our protagonist Nils is a snow plough driver (who makes a mockery of how the British deal with a little flurry of snow) who has recently won a ‘Citizen of the Year’ award. After his only son dies of a supposed heroin overdose, Nils refuses to believe that he was an addict (one of the film’s few shortfalls is that its views on drugs and addiction are painfully traditional, though thankfully little time is wasted discussing such matters in the typically efficient manner of Nordic cinema). When his suspicions are confirmed and he finds that the local drug gang staged his son’s overdose, Nils finds himself on a path of vengeance.
The action here is both sparse and sufficient. Unlike Hollywood productions that bombard the audience with punch-ups, gunfights and spectacular visuals, In Order finds the perfect balance, with director Hans Petter Moland understanding that less is quite often more.
Likewise the comedy is not overdone. On the contrary, the black comedy was so subtle as to fly over the heads of many cinemagoers. Drawn often from Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen’s brilliantly-acted Greven, the young leader of the drug gang, In Order’s sense of humour, like its action, far outstrips Hollywood. Greven’s struggle for authority and respect is at once laughable yet poignant. Nils, too, is a character who has lost everything but whose story has that whiff of the humorously unbelievable.
In the end we are left with a picture as bleak as the snowy landscapes Nils cuts through every day, yet it is a picture made a good deal more vibrant and varied by the perfect balance of action, laughs and killer dialogue.