The inspiration behind Contraband (Baltasar Kormákur, 2012); the thing that grabs you when watching this first movie is that despite having many of the same people involved in producing and directing both movies they are both very different in presentation and style. Reykjavik Rotterdam has that more “rough around the edges” feel that one expects from Icelandic movies including some previous efforts from Kormákur like Jar City (2005), indeed Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson who played the gruff but likeable detective Erlendur in Jar City (the Arnaldur Indriðason created character from his crime novels) plays the role of Steingimur, which in the remake is the character Sebastian, played by Ben Foster. What we have here is a very Icelandic movie.
Here the relationship with the Ship’s captain is better explained. The overall plot is less convoluted. The van and the carpet cleaner still play their parts. This is not to take away from Contraband, after all there are probably more people in a suburb of New Orleans than there is in the whole of Iceland, the plot line has to be simpler and less, shall we say, grand. (I’m sure the budget had something to with the scale of both productions). There is a darker edge to the original, but that’s most likely a product of its source.
Watching both movies within a short time of each other gives a master class in perspective. Both movies ultimately come from the same genetic strain but are quite different in their result. The overall plot line stays the same but how the plot is developed and ho it subsequently differs is interesting. We also see a difference in the characterization, as with many European films there is a subtle but distinct emphasis on the character’s background and personality, usually more so than US movies.
Watching Reykjavik Rotterdam only days after Contraband, I thought it might not work; I had hoped to watch this movie before watching Contraband, but the DVD arrived late and I had to wait, but as it turned out that was no issue, as both complimented. It was something like watching the movie before reading the book.
These are two very different movies, two views of the one story but they are not mutually exclusive. As I mentioned earlier RR is a more grounded movie; they are smuggling alcohol, rather than cash, even down to the painting (and I am not going to say too much here) but, no offense, it is more likely that there would be a Jackson Pollack transported through Rotterdam streets than Panama. It may be my bias, but I think Reykjavik Rotterdam is a slightly better movie, it might be because of my familiarity with Reykjavik or the acting versatility of people like Sigurðsson. Donnie Wahlberg performs his part well, but it is a part we are used to seeing him play.
Rating = 7/10, well worth a watch, especially if you like a good thriller. I knew the plot, I knew the storyline, but I still watched it and was entertained by it.