An authentic, richly detailed political thriller that powerfully captures an overlooked piece of history--the resistance to the Nazi occupation in Denmark. The anti- "Inglorious Basterds''- a story about heroic Nazi killers in which heroism itself sinks under bewildering crosscurrents of motive and uncertainty. Breathtaking cinematography with style to spare, accompanied with an engaging fact based storyline leads to an extraordinarily well-done film directed by Ole Christian Madson. However and collectively, this film isn't about Nazis or the Danish resistance per say, or the things people did to survive--it's about romancing these heroic figures in spectacular style.
The setting is in Copenhagen near the end of the Nazi occupation, and D-Day is fast approaching when the movie begins. Flammen (Thure Lindhardt) and Citronen (Mads Mikkelsen) are unlikely partners in the resistance. The former is a flame-haired youngster who kills without reservation, (except for women and children)--while the older is the driver, who is torn between providing for a better life for his wife and daughter, and his allegiance to the 'greater cause.' Flame and Citron are assassins in an underground organization eliminating Danish citizens who have embraced the occupation and joined German forces. They are concerned with the bureaucracy of organized violent resistance - an interesting angle. The two heroes would prefer to be freelancers, but they have orders and they must follow. Their situation becomes more desperate and dangerous for the increasingly isolated pair when a traitor was suspected in the ranks of the resistance when several of its members end up dead. Knowing whom to trust becomes impossible when their mission is now in question. The movie often feels more like film noir than a war picture both in the way it is shot and in the manner in which the characters are portrayed. Flame and Citron lurk in the shadows and corridors--Tommy guns are emptied into motorcars, as well as their occupants with great flair. "Flame and Citron'' is torn between honoring and subverting the rules of the WWII resistance genre, and it insists on seeing the two leads as heroes-- even as events spiral downward beyond their control. The anti-Nazi righteousness we crave from our movie devolves into paranoia, wrongful death, and a bleak landscape in which allegiances can never be pinned down. The script (based on actual events) by Madsen and Lars Andersen, wades right into the ambiguity of wartime morals and self-deceit.
Despite being a gorgeous period noir, "Flame & Citron" reminds us that assassins like these may have earned a heroic status for their cause and actions, but they also killed innocent people along the way. Though the material might lend itself to heavy-handedness, director Ole Christian Madsen is steady in his approach, and he gets terrific performances from the two leads. Resistance isn't futile, but it does come with its own terrible cost.