The Faustian pact between politicians and the media is laid bare in King's Game, an immensely watchable Danish conspiracy thriller. A cub reporter, Torp (Anders W Berthelsen) is assigned to the parliamentary beat just days before a general election, at a time when the man expected to lead a landslide victory for the Centre Party is involved in a horrific accident. Manipulated by almost everyone around him, the idealist journo gets a crash course in the dirty business of politics.
Berthelsen, so likable as the grieving vicar in Lone Sherfig's sweet Dogme drama Italian For Beginners, brings the same earthy goodness to the role of Torp. A juicy scoop falls into his lap by way of a devious spin doctor, and before he can tell what's really going on he has become an unwilling pawn in a sinister behind-the-scenes scrap for the party leadership. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and it infects not just parliament but the supposedly free press.
A quintessentially 21st-century political thriller, King's Game doesn't cover any ground left un-trod by TV series like State Of Play, but its execution makes it worth a watch. The plot is convoluted to the point of intrigue while remaining easy to follow. A Hollywood treatment would doubtless feature a noisy riot of car bombs and hit squads, but Nikolaj Arcel's film is consistently gripping with just the sight of people in suits scratching backs, rubbing elbows, and greasing palms.
In Danish with English subtitles.