Film Review: “The Innocents”

 

  • THE INNOCENT
  • Starring: Rakel Lenora Flottum, Sam Ashraf
  • Directed by: Eskil Vogt
  • Rating: unrated
  • Running Time: 1 hr 57 mins
  • IFC Films
Once upon a time, there were a plethora of western movies and television shows. Now, decades later after their demise in popularity, the superhero genre has become its replacement. Most films involving people with incredible abilities are generally straightforward. However, there are those that attempt to take a different path. The M. Night Shyamalan trilogy – “Unbreakable,” “Split” and “Glass” – comes to mind or the 2012 film, “Chronicle.” The newest addition to the more offbeat stories involving comic book-like powers comes from Norway in the form of the sci-fi/thriller “The Innocents.” Written and directed by Norwegian filmmaker Eskil Vogt (“Thelma”), “The Innocents” is a spine-tingling, edge-of-your-seat story that lingers long after its final credits have ceased rolling.
“The Innocents” is set entirely in a Norwegian housing complex where nine-year-old Ida (Rakel Lenora Flottum), her nonverbal older sister, Anna (Alva Brynsmo Ramstad) and their parents have recently moved in to. Anna receives a lot of attention from their parents as she has a severe form of autism. This makes Ida jealous, which often causes her to do things that are petty and mean.
Ida soon befriends Ben (Sam Ashraf), a young boy about her age who transforms from being a lonely, sympathetic kid to a burgeoning sociopath who has no problems crushing an animal’s head while it’s still alive. Amid it all, Ben shows Ida his special talent – telekinesis. It starts off with being able to move a bottle cap, but the more he practices the more he can do with it.
Ben turns out to be not the only who has a gift when another little girl, Aisha (Mina Yasmin Brenseth Asheim) begins to play with Anna. The duo demonstrates some type of telepathy and when all four are together, their powers are enhanced. As Ben’s darker side grows, so does the suspense as he becomes increasingly challenged by the girls.
While “The Innocents” could be construed as an origin story, it’s more of a one-off tale with a simmering build-up of suspense with a pinch of horror tossed in for good measure. The four central characters are thrust into a world they don’t quite understand yet as they grasp the concepts of good versus evil. Vogt keeps us in the dark as to how the children got their powers in their first place, which is fine because no knowing is better than trying to be convinced it is the result of touching a weird, glowing crystal in a cave. Nor does Vogt overwhelm us with an overabundance of special effects. Instead, he lets his intelligent, breath-of-fresh-air story do the talking. All four young actors handle themselves well throughout the film, although none of their performances are particularly awe inspiring.
Overall, “The Innocents” is one of the best “superhero” films you can possibly see. Just be prepared to jump in your seat a couple of times and be ready to discuss it long afterwards.

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