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film review
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In Cold Case Hammarskjold, Swedish private investigator Goran Bjorkdahl, left, and documentary filmmaker Mads Brugger, right, hit the road to unravel the mysterious death of a former United Nations secretary-general, uncovering a heinous crime in the process.Tore Vollan/Courtesy of Mongrel Media

Cold Case Hammarskjold

Directed by: Mads Brugger

Starring: Mads Brugger and Goran Bjorkdahl

Classification: PG; 127 minutes


3 out of 4 stars
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To great effect, Brugger's film combines all the conspiratorial weirdness of Oliver Stone’s JFK with the documentarian's gonzo-journalism shenanigans.Tore Vollan/Courtesy of Mongrel Media

In preparation for his documentative inquiry into the mysterious 1961 plane crash in Africa that killed United Nations secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold, the Danish filmmaker, journalist and provocateur Mads Brugger prepared peculiar provisions for himself and Swedish private investigator Goran Bjorkdahl: Two shovels, two cigars and a pair of pith helmets “to protect our Scandinavian skin.”

The shovels would come in handy – when rabbit holes turn up nothing, the inimitable Brugger is happy to dig more of his own.

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The documentary follows Brugger and Goran Bjorkdahl as they dig up details on the mysterious death of UN secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold in a 1961 plane crash in Africa.Tore Vollan/Courtesy of Mongrel Media

The documentary is a gas, with all the conspiracy-theory weirdness of Oliver Stone’s JFK, but with the added attraction of Brugger’s gonzo-journalism shenanigans. Some six years in, after roaming around archives in Africa and Europe and conducting an “enormous amount of interviews with elderly, white, liver-spotted men,” the filmmaker is discouraged that his leads involving Belgian mercenaries, a secret African society and a diabolical man dressed in white had resulted in more questions than answers. But then, as he attempts to salvage his “shipwrecked” film with crafty narrative techniques and other “tricks of the trade,” Brugger and his mild-mannered sidekick come across vital new information.

Maybe it’s real or maybe it’s wackadoodle, but a cold-case investigation is heated up considerably and imaginatively by Brugger’s charismatic film.

Cold Case Hammarskjold opens Aug. 16 in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

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