Comic-book movies are all the rave amongst the kids these days. Well, director Fenar Ahmad’s Danish film Darkland takes that tried-and-tested origin recipe and makes a remarkable, off-kilter thriller out of it.

When the mystery surrounding the murder of his little brother Yasin (Anis Alobaidi) begins to take a hold on him, successful and eccentric doctor Zaid (Dar Salim), trains day in and day out to suit up as a masked hero and avenge his brother’s death. But when those responsible for Yasin’s death get whiff of Zaid’s motive, its consequences will shake his world more than he could have ever imagined and he'll have to fight harder than before for his vengeance.

Darkland begins with the promise of a pretty good, if a little conventional, vengeance story. It has all the ingredients: the murder of the troubled youngster; the older, more stable sibling wanting revenge; the sinister wrongdoings of a corrupt, seedy criminal underworld; the fight for justice and vengeance. However, where this takes a different approach is in its middle act when Ahmad opts to blend this with the superhero formula to court a superhero-esque origin for a masked vigilante of sorts that Zaid becomes to take on his brother's murderers. And it's such a fun approach. Salim relishes in the role, delivering such an emotionally charged performance as we see the struggles of this family tragedy tearing him apart as it gnaws away at his job, his relationships, his own mind. We can feel his deep rooted pain chipping away at him and, although his road to salvation seems murky, we’re with him every step for the way.
This is thanks to a script that understands its characters and takes its time in really realising them. Zaid's actions may be immoral as he straddles this fine line between good and bad himself (the film does delve into this struggle very nicely too) but we feel heartbroken for him and we want to see him avenge his brother and we find ourselves so invested. Ahmad has written this character with such meticulous care and conviction; there's a genuine, compelling edge to him that really drives this film. Thematically too, Darkland hits all the right notes. It’s a story of family and obligation but also of the trappings of such actions, as Zaid sets out to bring an end to those that corrupt his brother but finds himself corrupting himself and his life in the process.

Ahmad has crafted a film that is visceral and brilliant. The cinematography is slick, polished and gorgeous and the direction is calculated and stylish too. Darkland perhaps falters on a pacing front; this is a very poorly paced film, feeling very jarring and askew with a jump to something excitement then a long period of time before something else happens to pique our interest. The characters are fascinating enough but, in the film’s downtime, it often lacks the gusto to really push the boat with its character craft and can just generally drag when nothing much is really happening. And when a film is already just shy of 2 hours, poor pacing can't help but really slow the proceedings down a fair bit. In the end, though, it doesn't take away from wholly immersive and thrilling nature of such a riveting watch.

Darkland is an excellent piece of work that that takes a conventional story in such a dark, fun way.

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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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