|Dir: Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, 2002, Iceland, 94 mins, Icelandic with English subtitles
Cast: Keith Carradine, Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir
Falcons tells the story of Simon (Carradine), a suicidal American ex-con who returns to Iceland, the land of his mother's birth. There he meets Dúa (Vilhjálmsdóttir), a free spirited artist whom he believes may be his daughter. Following a run in with the local police the two hatch a moneymaking scheme involving a valuable Icelandic falcon.
Up to this point in the narrative the film captures the peculiar otherness of Iceland and its people, juxtaposing beautiful lingering shots of the harsh landscape with the at times eccentric behaviour of its inhabitants. For this first half hour one is happy to suspend one's disbelief as the viewer is immersed in what is a familiar and yet totally alien society. Unusually Fridriksson does not employ the usual device of a 'fish out of water'; Simon, his protagonist seems to slip easily and confidently into this environment. Within days he has saved a man's life, met the woman who may be his daughter and even taken the time to establish the value of a rare bird of prey. And while Carradine's sub-Dirty Harry era Clint Eastwood acting style jars at times with the naturalistic and occasionally mannered performances of the Icelandic actors (in particular the charming Vilhjálmsdóttir) it fits within the film's overall 'anything goes' quirkiness.
Unfortunately Fridriksson decides to completely change the tone of the movie when Simon and Dúa escape from Iceland with the eponymous falcon. Quirky, interesting Iceland becomes boringly predictable 'somewhere else' (a city normally inhabited by Timothy Bottoms and viewed 'straight to video'). In this case 'somewhere else' happens to be Hamburg but it could just as easily be the United States or Amsterdam, so sketchy and predictable are the characters - gangsters, prostitutes and second hand car salesmen are all present and correct.
In this new environment the script is exposed as childishly simplistic and the characters shallow, their motivations confused and unconvincing. What started as one movie with hints of deadpan Kaurismaki becomes another, far less interesting and more pretentious one, fluttering to a predictable and weak finale. Falcons ends up as the definition of a curate's egg.
Special Features: Film Notes by Chris Roberts