FILM REVIEW – DOMINO. With Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Carice van Houten, Guy Pearce, Søren Malling, Eriq Ebouaney. Written by Petter Skavlan. Directed by Brian DePalma. Rated R for strong violence, some language and brief nudity. 89 minutes.
DOMINO is your basic thriller, with a Danish policeman avenging the death of his partner and getting caught up in an international terrorist plot. While the plot has some surprising twists and turns, it’s essentially a potboiler. What makes it interesting is how the story is told. In his first film in seven years, veteran director Brian DePalma shows he’s still in full control of his signature visual style.
The story opens with Christian (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his partner Lars (Søren Malling) engaging in the sort of bantering familiar in any police procedural. After several scenes setting up their characters and relationship, we get to the film’s first bravura set piece that begins with them answering a call and ends with Christian and a murder suspect (Eriq Ebouaney) engaging in a rooftop chase. To go much further into the plot would give too much away, but suffice to say, the suspect is more than he seems to be, and attracts the attention of an unscrupulous CIA agent (Guy Pearce) who wants to use him to get to an ISIS leader.
Throughout his career, DePalma has been praised and criticized for the obvious influence director Alfred Hitchcock has had on his style. Such is the case here, with not only visual echoes of “Vertigo” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” but the musical score by frequent DePalma collaborator Pino Donaggio, channeling Bernard Herrmann, who provided some of Hitchcock’s most notable scores.
This is especially clear in a nearly wordless climatic sequence focused on a planned terrorist attack at a Spanish stadium where a bull fight is taking place. DePalma juggles Christian, his new partner (Carice van Houten), a suicide bomber, the ISIS command including someone operating a drone to film the attack, and numerous other players. The director expertly builds the suspense without tipping his hand how it’s going to play out. Given the violence in the film, including a mass shooting at a film festival, there’s no guarantee that the good guys are going to win.
Coster-Waldau works well as the police detective with something to prove. If he seems familiar, it’s because he just completed several seasons as Jamie Lannister on “Game of Thrones.” Interestingly, he’s joined by van Houten, who played Melisandre on the show. As the CIA agent, Pearce has less to do, but is crisp and chilling, while Ebouaney manages to be both menacing and sympathetic as the killer, as his character’s motivations become clear.
“Domino” is getting a limited theatrical release while going to Video on Demand. For DePalma’s fans, it’s a welcome return.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.