Shades of gray: In Nazi-occupied Denmark, Flame (Thure Lindhardt), Citron (Mads Mikkelsen) and other resistance members wage a guerrilla war against Gestapo henchmen — and their fellow freedom fighters.
Shades of gray: In Nazi-occupied Denmark, Flame (Thure Lindhardt), Citron (Mads Mikkelsen) and other resistance members wage a guerrilla war against Gestapo henchmen — and their fellow freedom fighters. IFC Films
Flame And Citron
- Director: Ole Christian Madsen
- Genre: Foreign War Thriller
- Running Time: 130 minutes
Unrated: Murder, profanity, strong sexual content, graphic violence
With: Thure Lindhardt, Mads Mikkelsen, Stine Stengade, Peter Mygind
Denmark emerged from its Nazi occupation with a good reputation, in large part because of a successful nationwide operation that spirited most of the country's 8,000 Jews away to neutral Sweden.
But the history isn't so simple, according to Flame and Citron, a resistance drama oozing with treachery and self-interest.
Based on historical events, the movie opens with documentary footage of Germany's 1940 invasion. A narrator, who turns out to be Flame, turns witheringly to the subject of his countrymen: "There were German Nazis ... Danish Nazis."
The distinction is crucial, because resistance assassins Flame (Thure Lindhardt) and Citron (Casino Royale villain Mads Mikkelsen) execute only Danish collaborators. There's a tacit understanding that the Gestapo won't retaliate if Germans themselves aren't targeted.
Flame and Citron are the actual code names once used by two prominent members of the Danish Resistance, Bent Hviid and Jorgen Schmidt. The first man's alias is not much of a disguise: Flame is a red-haired hothead whose face is often illuminated by fire, whether from a cigarette or from the end of a gun barrel.
The unshaven Citron is less conspicuous, although not always a cool character. He's particularly volatile on the subject of his wife, who defects to a more stable if less heroic man, taking their young daughter with her.
When the partners are introduced in May 1944, Flame is the shooter and Citron the driver. The two don't fully change places over the course of the movie, but Citron does grow more comfortable with killing. In their final showdowns with the Nazis, the two men take approaches that couldn't have been predicted from the movie's early scenes.
Acting on orders from London, Winther (Peter Mygind) gives Flame and Citron their assignments. The two men obey, mostly, though Flame begins to have doubts. Some of these concerns are put in his mind by his new lover, a blond-wigged resistance courier named Ketty (Stine Stengade) who makes regular trips to Stockholm. She tells Flame that Winther is using him to terminate personal enemies. Winther, in turn, identifies Ketty as an informer, marking her for death.
Flame can only follow his instincts. There's no way of verifying anything in German-occupied Copenhagen, which the movie depicts as both surprisingly open and utterly opaque.
In the beginning, Citron (left) drives while Flame does the shooting. But by the end, both approach their assignments in ways that couldn't have been predicted at the start.
In the beginning, Citron (left) drives while Flame does the shooting. But by the end, both approach their assignments in ways that couldn't have been predicted at the start. IFC Films
Director Ole Christian Madsen made his first films in the austere Dogme mode decreed by Danish cinematic maverick Lars von Trier. But Flame and Citron has a classic look, with widescreen compositions, overhead shots and dramatic contrasts of light and dark. There is, of course, more of the latter.
The movie's storytelling can be as old-fashioned as its appearance. Some sequences are quick and messy, but others are grand and theatrical. And in his attempt to show the Germans' respect for their Danish foes, Madsen gives some Nazi leaders a sense of dignity that's neither persuasive nor satisfying.
Jean-Pierre Melville's 1969 Army of Shadows, a French resistance saga that was reissued in 2006, has a more cogent outlook: Fighting the Nazis was just like any other gang war — a mad scramble to survive.
The best moments in Flame and Citron capture that chaos. Too often, though, the movie seems to aspire to be a noble national epic, rather than the rougher, more universal tale of two desperate men fighting for a cause that is — like so many — ultimately a personal one.