Written by: Hannah Tran | June 11th, 2020
Exit Plan (Jonas Alexander Arnby, 2019) 2 out of 4 stars.
Danish director Jonas Alexander Arnby’s Exit Plan has all the trappings of a much better film. With an intriguing, albeit complicated, premise about an insurance agent dealing with a brain tumor who decides to investigate a mysterious hotel that seems to specialize in assisted suicide, Exit Plan uses its lead character to explore the dark themes of suicidal ideation and the horror of losing one’s grasp on reality. But although it promises a deep look into the darker side of psychological degradation, most of Exit Plan’s limited tension is made dull by its slow-paced, directionless script.
If one were only to examine Exit Plan through the way it looks and feels, its desired effect might be achieved. Combining elaborate production design by Lars Von Trier collaborator Simone Grau Roney with intricate cinematography by Niels Thastum, the film has a distinct look that proves much more interesting than its typically dull contents. The score by Mikkel Hess further provides a unique, almost electronic atmosphere that consistently finds itself pulling the weight of the overwhelmingly lackluster dialogue.
Perhaps the greatest issue with Exit Plan, however, is that its desired effect is too obvious, and thus its outcome is inevitably more disappointing when it fails to deliver on it. Its tone, for example, clearly calls back something like The Lobster, yet it lacks the dark and memorable punch that that film has to offer. Its seemingly similar premise is squandered with an uneven structure that makes it difficult to decipher when the actual story begins and if there is any actual story in the first place. The grueling pacing of that structure proves tedious at best and intellectually shallow at worst. The exposition, moreover, goes on for far too long without providing a deep understanding of its characters, leaving the promised suicide-hotel narrative undeveloped and difficult to invest in.
Nevertheless, its greatest strength lies in its greatest star, Game of Thrones actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who, despite dealing with a thinly-developed character, manages to deliver an extremely watchable performance that expertly makes his character range from sympathetic to pitiable. The fantastical elements that it uses to delve into his psyche, moreover, prove to be one of the film’s more interesting and successful ways of ingratiating his character to the viewers by providing full insight into the internal terror that he faces.
Therefore, it is too bad that such a performance, which also encompasses many of the better parts of the filmmaking, is failed so miserably by a nearly lifeless script. What it wants to be, it is too cowardly to do so. And in the end, its outlandish premise and progressive approach become lost in the overpowering emotional and material mediocrity.