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  • Writer's picturePerrin Faerch

Review: The Trip (2021)

The Trip, or the original Norwegian title of I Onde Dager (direct translation meaning “In Bad Days"), is a black comedy that follows a dysfunctional couple’s weekend getaway as they both share the intention to murder each other. However, plans get complicated when they are forced to fight against the arrival of three unwelcome guests. It’s a movie that is so Scandinavian in terms of its unique and persistent dark humour that the Nordics has been able to hone and craft as their own branded style. But despite all the moments of terrifying and hilarious brilliance that director Tommy Wirkola creates within The Trip, it finds itself getting downright messy in the final third, unable to quite the stick the landing that would've made The Trip's perilous journey worth its weight in gold.

Although Scandinavian cinema and its personalities have been massively influential on movies and filmmakers young and old through the likes of Bergman, Dreyer and the Dogme 95 movement (just to name a few), Hollywood has been under a secret Viking invasion over the past 30 or so years that regular viewers may be completely unaware of despite its presence being felt everywhere. Nordic Noir hits like The Killing and The Bridge has not only influenced a lot of films and series since, it also spawned decent, but arguably lesser remakes, while films like The Guilty and Force Majeure received completely meh and entirely unnecessary remakes that were missing the nuances and uniquely Scandinavian ticks that made them such thrilling works in the first place. Now with last year’s Oscar-winning Another Round receiving a needless US remake, it’s yet another reminder as to how far the Scandinavian influence is being felt in Hollywood. Thankfully, The Trip could potentially be protected from a needless remake thanks to the “Netflix Original” banner, allowing for it to reach wider audiences without it being remixed by Hollywood as it waves the flag for Norway, brandishing its uniquely Scandinavian brand of dark humour.

The Trip is made up of three acts that feel very different to one another. Its setup in Act 1 features some of the funnest and smartest ways to establish the world of story and how these characters, along with their goals and intentions, come into each other's plans. The Trip introduces the rules of its specific structure and style, scattering the order in which we play with the past and present, laying breadcrumbs out in order for us to trail back and connect the dots as to how everyone got to where they are and why they said or did specific things. It's not the first time it has been done by any means, but it's a fun non-linear approach akin to Pulp Fiction that is immediately appropriate within the film's tone, making it an easy film to settle into.

But once you think the film has locked in its tone and structure going forward, it changes the channel within the second act. It stops with the "x days/hours earlier" expositions and returns the film to an appropriately straighter, more linear approach. It's also here where we take a really dark turn that challenges and exposes Lars and Lisa under a far harsher, uglier light - revealing far uglier natures, even moreso than just wanting to kill each other as desperation and moments of deafening frailty come into light. It’s here where things go from being a fun black comedy and turns into a surprisingly introspective survival horror that taps into some of our deepest fears and recurring nightmares. Thankfully, it's not as dark and as fucked up as other home invasion survival horrors like Funny Games for example, but its sharp shift towards a darker, scarier tone from its flashy style and humour made it just as disconcerting and effective as other films within the home invasion subgenre. The humour is still there, but it is embedded deeper beneath the frightening truths of these individuals, as they reveal the glaring weaknesses they possess as well as the strengths they never knew they had.

It's not just a film about saving themselves and potentially their marriage as they are forced to work together. Instead, it's about them needing to look inward and save themselves both metaphorically and literally. As much as these moments are terrifying and deeply uncomfortable to watch, it’s at this point where I felt The Trip was something truly special. It wowed me with its smart writing and visceral performances as we plunge deeper into the heart of this failing marriage, exposing the very nature of what makes people inherintly good and evil. I found myself pausing a moment to text my mate that he needs to watch The Trip. It was that good. But of course, I spoke too soon. Somewhere within the third act, it starts to outstay its welcome and begins undoing all the ugly intricasies of its themes and characters it worked so hard to develop and discuss.

We return to the sillier tone of the first act, which is completely fine and indeed welcome, but it’s the manner with which The Trip does this that is frustrating, especially considering how taut and finely tuned the rest of the film was up until this point. The Trip is constantly surprising us in those first two acts and most of its third, but these surprises are never random. As mentioned before, Wirkola and his co-writers provide narrative breadcrumbs for us through plot and character as well as setting up a specific tone, style and structure that allows for new revelations to come into play as we go back a few days/hours earlier, catching up with certain characters, etc. It’s what makes the film so hard to guess where it is going to take us and it is one factor that makes it such a thrilling viewing experience as it ties things together so effortlessly that is fun and clever.

But the tail-end of the third act gets so messy in its silliness that it completely unwrites its own rules, stomping on its own breadcrumbs as it tries to write itself out of a corner and sprint towards multiple conclusions. Although they try to rationalize specific character/plot points and motivations with each wacky turn in act three, it never makes sense. Illogical character choices mixed with gore for gore’s sake just lengthens the film’s long slog to the end, finding every excuse to stretch the run time far longer than it needed to be. There are still many moments of gold here, but the film’s needless desire to tie up every possible knot just doesn’t feel earned due to a lack of setup in specific arcs and choices for it to mean anything important or make sense. It’s filled with cop-out moments right up until its finale that very nearly undoes all the blood, sweat and tears I endured for these characters.

As maddening as the third act can get, the cast is consistently outstanding throughout, with top marks being allocated to that of Noomi Rapace and Aksel Hennie in particular. Their contempt for not only each other but themselves are felt, making each moment of growth and self-realization all the more captivating as they finally find themselves having to address the problems they face with themselves and their relationship. Their performances are unique to each character as they react differently to moments of varying extremities, showcasing their strength and resounding fragility as they cling on for dear life on top of hating each other's guts.

Despite my grievances and frustrations with the plot and character (un)development within the third act, I still really enjoyed The Trip in all the blood and mayhem it subjects the audience to. But despite the strength of the first two acts, the last sprint in the third act stops The Trip from being a truly great film. It just gets too messy and too illogical with baffling decisions from both the characters and the writers, making its string of Return of the King-type endings feel like cheap shots we really didn’t need. For tighter, more consistent comedies from 2021 showcasing the unique Scandinavian humour and style, look no further than Riders of Justice (Denmark) and Ninjababy (Norway).

Where you can watch it: Netflix (Worldwide)

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