Red Dot (Netflix) might start as a formulaic thriller, but it takes some memorable turns into increasingly deranged territory.
This review of Red Dot (Netflix) is spoiler-free.
In Netflix’s first Swedish original feature-film, Red Dot, director and co-writer Alain Darborg leads audiences on well-worn tracks through the expected beats of a typical survival thriller before veering wildly off-course. It takes an hour of the lean 86-minute runtime for this wintry genre exercise to warm up, but when it does its tone and themes become impressively bleak, even in contrast to the stark landscape.
That landscape, the snow-blanketed mountains of Northern Sweden, is being trudged by David (Anastasios Soulis) and Nadja (Nanna Blondell), a young biracial couple who’re attempting one last romantic reconciliation beneath the aurora borealis to save their floundering marriage. Nadja being Black is important to note, since almost immediately upon arriving in the more rural climes she’s the victim of uncomfortable looks, awkward pleasantries, and eventually an outright racist attack by a gang of local hunters. When David and Nadja’s tent out in the wilderness starts to be plagued by the tell-tale red dot sight of a rifle, even the least-experienced audience member can put two and two together.
But in the world of genre moviemaking, two and two doesn’t always equal four. The tense gas station encounter, unpleasant locals, and outsiders stranded in a hostile environment surrounded by aggressors are all par for the course in this kind of thing, but Red Dot has more on its mind. David and Nadja’s fraught battle for survival eventually becomes a war with themselves as well as the environment and their attackers. And it’s a war that comes with casualties.
Thoroughly grim and humourless, this isn’t laidback escapism. But it is handsome and impressively tense filmmaking, with the brutal wilderness shot for maximal beauty and the same amount of frigid terror. There’s nowhere for these two to go beyond deeper into a frozen nightmare, and they drag the audience with them.