While it may have taken playing a Bond villain and now a famous cannibal on American TV for Mads Mikkelsen to gain widespread recognition, those following his Danish film career have long known that he’s a superstar. And Mikkelsen, one of his country’s finest actors, in collaboration with Thomas Vinterberg, one of its finest directors, delivers what may be his strongest performance yet in The Hunt, which rightfully won him the Best Actor Award at Cannes last year.
Mikkelsen is Lucas, a mild-mannered divorcé who works at a kindergarten by day and mostly stays in with his dog by night as he figures out how to regain custody of his teenage son. The kids adore him and the staff’s quite fond of him too (he even becomes romantically involved with a slightly predatory colleague), so it comes as a shock when one of the children (his best friend’s daughter, no less) accuses him of indecent exposure. Thus begins a chain reaction of lies—Lucas’s innocence is never in doubt for one moment—leading him to become an outcast within the community.
Though traces of pain can be detected in Mikkelsen’s uniquely chiseled face, his character succumbs to only the occasional emotional outburst, otherwise enduring his cruel treatment with a near-frustrating stoicism. Like Vinterberg’s equally devastating Submarino (10), The Hunt possesses a rare kind of staying power, seldom found these days.