The true story of how Swedish ambassador Harald Edelstam broke all the diplomatic rules to save innocent lives during the 1973 Chile coup, “The Black Pimpernel” is handsome but lacks real punch. Shot entirely on location in Santiago — where the filmmakers used the actual sports stadium where hundreds of prisoners were tortured and killed — the pic has a thorough sense of realism but never gets under the surface of the material. Offshore interest looks slim.
Edelstam (Michael Nyqvist) became known as “The Black Pimpernel” (referring to the fictional hero who saved lives during the French Revolution) after helping Norwegian resistance fighters during WWII. When Augusto Pinochet overthrows the government in Chile, Edelstam hides refugees in the Swedish embassy and goes on nightly expeditions to find others in need of shelter. When the army threatens the Cuban embassy, Edelstam declares it under Swedish protection. He never stands down, even when other diplomats in Chile and the Swedish government itself oppose his actions. Nyqvist (“As It Is in Heaven”) is fine as Edelstam, but there’s a lack of heartfelt emotion to the film overall.