Hans Petter Moland’s In Order of Disappearance is as slick and indifferent as the cold environment it occurs in. Originally titled ‘The Prize Idiot’, the film follows Nils Dickman (Stellan Skarsgard), a quiet dedicated snow-plough who becomes a furious force of vengeance when his son is murdered by a drug cartel.
Here, is a fully realized vision of the Norwegian thriller, the bleak, aggressive, and ultimately indifferent landscape is so well tied to the narrative that the film feels particularly bound to its home country. Snow and storm bind with human error and ignorance to instigate peculiar scenarios, cruel twists of fate that leave characters dead by the plot’s wayside. With each death, the screen cuts to black and presents the deceased’s name, this indifferent device helps to elaborate on the pointlessness of murder, almost congratulating each fool as he reaches the finishing line then asking ‘Was it worth it?’. Nils himself becomes a vengeful automaton executing gangsters because of the pointless execution of his son.
Skarsgard proves his versatility in a role handmade for his own brand of softly spoken normality. Any doubts as to his capacity for violence are quickly squashed by his ferocity and determination. Some people may find a problem with how quickly and easily this every-man is able to dispatch his targets, but it appears to be the point of the film that any idiot can kill. Moland’s world is one where death is rarely ceremonious and always abrupt.
Violence is startling and fierce, bullets tear through concrete and flesh alike, punches crush bones and break noses. There is nothing romantic or fun about the violence here and that makes it bizarrely pleasing. Much of the humour in the film comes from this kind of startling honesty; the little details of stark realism, often slipped in during the bleakest moments, help remind the audience that in real life things are never as clean-cut or poetic, and in its own brutally honest way, that’s kind of poetic.
In Order of Disappearance is a highly aware film, continuously undermining the expected route of the traditional thriller to deliver something surprising, fast-paced, and a pleasure to watch. Philip Ogaard’s stunning cinematography keeps the aesthetic of the film as sharp and cold as the fate that seems to rule its characters.