Thursday, August 22, 2019

Review: Cold Case Hammarskjöld

Release date: August 16, 2019
Running time: 128 minutes
Starring:  Mads Brügger, Göran Björkdahl 

Cold Case Hammarskjöld is a documentary that looks into the 1961 death of Dag Hammarskjöld, the Secretary General of the United Nations.  Hammarskjöld's death came at a time when he was tirelessly seeking independence for African nations, a policy that was at odds with many of the traditional colonial powers.  His death seemed to happen abruptly with a lackluster investigation quickly concluding that it was an accident.  Almost half a century later, after 6 years of investigating the case, Göran Björkdahl uncovers many new clues and previously undocumented information about this case.  Together with journalist Mads Brügger, the pair try to shed some light on Hammarskjöld's death.

Cold Case Hammarskjöld has an unconventional style.  Instead of traditional documentary tactics, this film has Brügger dictating much of the film to two secretaries he hires to transcribe his words.  It is an odd choice, one that I think was there to provide some human interaction in the early parts of this film, but it comes off as just weird.  The director himself is quirky and some of that quirk shines through the film.  It can be funny at times, odd at other times, and occasionally slightly tone deaf .  That being said, it does provide for some entertaining moments in what could be a very dry subject.  Additionally, the film includes animated sequences that repeat often.  This gives a low budget feel to what should be an absolute highlight of the movie.

The film itself provides an interesting look at an old case that many may have not heard of.  It goes in depth into this case, but also uses that as a jumping off point to delve into a related conspiracy.  It seems far-fetched at time and outright insane at others.  Additionally, with the way the film was crafted, there are far too convenient characters that enter the story when they need to.  This was probably to keep the audience guessing, but the main reveal seems too fortuitous.  In any event, the film does raise a lot of new questions about Hammarskjöld's death, some of which are apparently being investigated to this day.  And the film does shed light on a topic that was a big deal when it happened, but many today might not have heard of.  

Overall it is a documentary that is either a complete fabrication or an insane conspiracy.  However, the long run time and odd directorial choices make this a film that could be enjoyed at home.  

Rent it

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