By Navid Mehraban (Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK)
Tommy Wirkola, the director of such films as Kill Buljo, Dead Snow, and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters returns with his latest piece What Happened to Monday, currently streaming on Netflix.
The narrative is set in a near dystopian future where global warming and over population has led to the enforcement of “one child per family policy” under the supervision of Dr. Nicolette Cayman (Glenn Close), director of the Child Allocation Bureau. A set of identical septuplets are born, each named as a day of the week, and taken under the guardianship of their grandfather, Terrence Settman (Willem Dafoe). With his intricate planning, the seven sisters (Noomi Rapace) are able to live together. They adopt the single identity of Karen Settman in the outside world and are only allowed to leave their home on the day of their given name. Their secret remains hidden from the oppressive government for the next thirty years until the day Monday disappears, leading the six siblings on a mission to save their sister.
Rapace has proven herself a skilled actor in films like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. In this movie, she undertook an enormous responsibility in portraying seven characters and the first time we see them all in a single shot it is unavoidable to question the quality of her performance. The end result is a set of characters that are too much alike except for one or two who display complex personalities and are interesting to watch. At times it seems Rapace is just playing a single character in different costumes and makeup.
Glenn Close delivers a satisfying performance for her role as Cayman, but with limited screen time, it is hard to sympathise with her character by the end as she tries to justify her acts.
With dystopian films, there is plenty of room to educate the audience or bring awareness to an issue. However, in this case, the film falls short of making a thought-provoking impression and instead delivers an entertaining watch with abundant action sequences, which are intensified in several instances by the use of crosscutting between scenes occurring simultaneously. To add an extra hint of intensity, the plot is broken down into days starting from Sunday and ending on Thursday. This elegant touch provided a stronger narrative with the viewer being aware of the tight time frame that the events take place in.
The flashback scenes incorporated in the plot were rather interesting to watch as Terrence Settman puts his plan to work and the young siblings (Clara Read) learn to adjust to their strict lifestyle. In one scene where he shows them the consequence when more than one of them steps outside at the same time is deliciously unnerving. Frankly, I found myself very intrigued about their past and wanted to learn more. In fact, the thirty years leap in time during which the sisters have survived under the vigil surveillance of the authorities in retrospect seems kind of hard to believe.
Like with his previous films, Wirkola achieves to present an entertaining action film with the added dystopian Sci-fi elements. Besides a simple message that every human deserves to live (or something along these lines) What Happened to Monday has no greater influence. While a talented actor, Rapace’s performance can hardly be considered one of her best. All in all, it is worth a watch, especially for those who like their action films.