Film, History, Spies

Film: Flame and Citron

April 3, 2011

Based on a true story, Flame and Citron (2008) is a historical biopic in the vein of Army of Crime and Black Book:  a tragic story about heroic resistance to Nazism in occupied Europe during World War II.  This one takes us to a less common theater — Denmark — but the elements will be familiar to anyone steeped in the era.

“Flame” and “Citron” are the codenames of two major Danish resistance members, part of a network clandestinely fighting the German occupation.  Flame (Thure Lindhardt) is a brash young assassin whose fanatical hatred of Nazism leads him to deeds and thoughts nearly as callous and mechanistic as his opponents’.  Citron (Mads Mikkelsen) is his wheelman, a dark soul for whom the war has become as much a purpose as a burden.  The two of them work together as part of a cell managed by Aksel Winther (Peter Mygind), who relays missions and information via neutral Sweden from the group’s British backers.  But as liberation nears, the duo gradually start to untangle a complex skein of alliances and betrayals in their midst.

With a somewhat better natural shape than most biopics, Flame and Citron is a worthy addition to the canon of secret resistance stories, particularly effective for the transforming arcs it gives its two nicely performed lead characters.  In tone and subject matter it’s fairly common for the genre, but it focuses on its story and tells it well.  I found it more engaging than Army of Crime, and perhaps a bit more grounded than the flashy, impressive Black Book.  A good film, but probably not a fit for people who aren’t already interested in this kind of thing.

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