Exit Plan, whose original Danish title Selvmordsturisten translates to “Suicide Tourist,” is a movie that could never get made in America unless the director was already very well-established. The reason for that is its subject matter: suicide. Unless you add the word Squad behind it, a big Hollywood production company would be extremely wary of putting forth the money for such a movie. However, Danish cinema, like most of its European counterparts, is much freer and more focused on breaking taboos, not dissimilar to films made outside of the big studio system in the States.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, aka Jaime Lannister on Game of Thrones(who was my favorite character on the show), is taking the time that he’s been away from television to star in some roles that are very different from the King Slayer. His Max Isaksen is exceptionally different. For example, I never imagined Coster-Waldau sporting glasses and a mustache instead of a golden hand, and I’m sure he is glad to portray characters that are as different as possible.
“…a luxury hotel designed for assisted suicide. Max tried offing himself after learning of the tumor, so news of this hotel certainly piques his interest.”
In Exit Plan, Max works for a Danish life insurance company. He lives with his significant other, Lærke (Tuva Novotny), and their cat, Simba. Early on, we discover that Max has an inoperable brain tumor growing rapidly, and that soon, he won’t be himself anymore. Through the wife of a late client, Max discovers an extremely unorthodox business called Aurora. What’s so weird about Aurora? It is a luxury hotel designed for assisted suicide. Max tried offing himself after learning of the tumor, so news of this hotel certainly piques his interest.
The Aurora is located in the Scandinavian mountains, where one can see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) on certain evenings. Max settles into life at the hotel nicely. Despite its intended purpose, its appearance is far from dismal. It’s gorgeous, and I want to go wherever it is immediately. Suffice to say that the production design by Simone Grau Roney and the cinematography by Niels Thastum are both impeccable. Anyway, Max is following his death plan pretty well, and it seems as though he will be leaving us soon. But then, as he had with both other times he attempted suicide, he wants out. That doesn’t work for the Aurora staff, and what ensues is pretty wild. You’d think all the opium tea and jacuzzi soaks might have prepared him to leave the world, but they didn’t.
I love the script by Rasmus Birch. The concept is original, and the film spends a lot of time misdirecting or not explaining things thoroughly, adding an intriguing layer of mystery. The questions the film asks about life, love, and morality are heavy but not so much as to weigh down everything. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is stoic, which is something I’m not used to, but his performance was very refreshing for that reason. I recommend watching Exit Plan when you’re in the mood for something a little dark and offbeat, which is definitely what the film is, and unapologetically so.
"…Danish cinema, like most of its European counterparts, is much freer and more focused on breaking taboos..."