Paranoia is the watchword in Danish-Swedish conspiracy thriller-cum-dysfunctional-family drama “What No One Knows.” Vet Danish helmer Soren Kragh-Jacobsen, who scored internationally with his 1999 Dogma 95 flirtation, “Mifune,” drops the dogmatics and hurtles headlong into a commercial pic to trouble the paranoid mind. Convincing for most of its duration, the yarn falters in the final reels, sacrificing logic in favor of momentum. Skedded for a June release in Denmark, pic should garner strong B.O. across Scandi territories with its local stars and hot-button civil-rights issues. International fest surveillance is assured.
After a 1970s-set prologue depicting the death of central protag’s teenage g.f. in a suspicious house fire, pic jumps to a contempo setting in which middle-aged Thomas Deleuran (Anders W. Berthelsen) is an emotionally stunted kids’ entertainer. Seemingly innocuous intro, which captures a tyke’s-eye view of Thomas’ puppet show via a small digital screen, is the first indicator of an uncomfortable awareness of pervasive, real-life video surveillance.
Attending a strained family dinner with his daughter (Sarah Juel Werner) and soon-to-be ex-wife (Marie Louise Wille), Thomas is reunited with his itinerant photographer sister Charlotte (Sonja Richter). In a private moment, Charlotte reveals she has info about their late father, who was an intelligence officer, and suggests they meet an unnamed colleague the next night. But when Thomas approaches their rendezvous point, he is greeted by a police roadblock and the news that Charlotte has drowned.
Going through his sister’s effects, he finds data suggesting their dad had been involved in 1980s germ-warfare research. Still ignorant of the identity of Charlotte’s acquaintance, Thomas quizzes mystery blonde Ursula (Maria Bonnevie) and uncovers more about dad’s clandestine activities. Increasingly aware that he’s being observed, Thomas realizes the high stakes when an attempt is made on his daughter’s life.
For pic’s first hour, the taut narrative leads aud on an info-packed chase, but as the denouement draws near, the script begins to fudge and clumsily mismanage details along the way.
Lead thesp Berthelsen is likeable as the underachieving puppetmaster, and as the personification of script’s Motherland metaphor, Ghita Norby is good as his “Manchurian Candidate”-style mom.
Wisely using the widescreen frame, Kragh-Jacobsen’s direction is tight, sustaining entertainment value and emotional engagement until the end credits, which are accompanied by a montage of real-life CCTV surveillance screens.
Morten Sorborg’s lensing is as crisp as a Scandi snowfall; sound is similarly precise. All other tech credits are pro.