DVD Review: The Idealist


Riveting conspiracy thriller exposes a real-life Danish political scandal.

The story of a journalist’s investigation into the cover-up of a nuclear accident is a gripping drama that may represent the closest Danish cinema has come to producing its own equivalent of All The President’s Men.  A tense drama cast in the mould of classic 1970s conspiracy thrillers The Conversation and The Parallax View, director Christina Rosendahl’s second feature film is based on journalist Poul Brink’s book The Thule Affair – A Universe of Lies.

Working at a local radio station Poul Brink (Peter Plauborg) uncovered one of the darkest chapters in modern Danish history. His commitment to revealing the truth about the nation’s nuclear policy during the cold war rewrote history. Batting against the Danish and US governments, he was prepared to risk imprisonment in his quest to uncover the facts about a botched cleanup operation.

The events recreated in The Idealist continue to resonate for Danish and Greenlandic audiences.  Poul Brink’s findings revealed that Denmark’s foreign and nuclear policies were based on a succession of lies.

In 1968 a B-52 bomber crashed in Greenland close to a US military base. The plane was carrying four nuclear weapons. Three were salvaged and one was lost. All references to the missing bomb were removed from official documents. 18 years later, Poul Brink discovered Danish workers involved in the clean-up operation were suffering from a variety of skin diseases, including cancer. Initially sceptical, Brink’s journey into the murky world of international politics will shatter a deceased Prime Minister’s reputation and lead to renewed calls for Greenland’s official independence.

Underscoring her commitment to presenting an honest version of events, director Christina Rosendahl incorporates archival footage of the cleanup operation and news reports. Restrained in its treatment of the allegations contained within Brink’s book, The Idealist is an effective attempt to highlight abuse of power and dramatise one man’s determination to expose the truth.

Despite the story’s emotional potency and its continued relevance for Greenlanders seeking independence, the director has chosen to present a cool and largely understated account. Possibly the most significant film about Danish journalism, The Idealist‘s commitment to authenticity enhances its spellbinding power. An intelligent and challenging account of a reporter stumbling across a story that will transform how the nation views its own history.

The presence of high-calibre actors, including The Killing‘s Søren Malling, brings gravitas to the production. The Idealist is an impressive thriller that deserves to make headlines.

The Idealist is available to order from Amazon.

BBC News report of the B-52’s crash and search for the fourth bomb.


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