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New to Blu-Ray - SONS OF DENMARK

sons of denmark review
Fuelled by the rise of a nationalist politician, a young immigrant becomes radicalised.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Ulaa Salim

Starring: Zaki Youssef, Mohammed Ismail Mohammed, Rasmus Bjerg, Imad Abul-Foul

sons of denmark bluray



Following the first act of Sons of Denmark, Ulaa Salim’s ripped-from-the-headlines terrorist thriller, there is a twist so jaw droppingly perfect, both in narrative consequence and pure surprise, that to discuss the film in comprehensive detail would be to rob the uninitiated of the most deliciously unexpected plot points of the Entire Year. It’s the sort of twist that not only pulls the sajjadat salat out from under you, but in doing so forces the audience to address their own assumptions and the aspects of Islamic representation which they may take for granted, either due to the hegemonic depictions of mass media (stereotypes which the film has so far perpetuated as rote) or our own inculcated prejudices. But don’t worry, while Salim’s film is no doubt intelligent and culturally confrontational, Sons of Denmark is never worthy or didactic, and instead skilfully embeds its excoriating ideas within deeply felt genre frameworks: just as it should be. Think of it as a Euro-Islamic Internal Affairs


sons of denmark review

We open with a horrific explosion which occurs on the Copenhagen underground, an atrocity we experience via a sweetly portrayed young white couple, one of whom will not survive the bombing. Salim’s scrupulous approach in these early moments is typical to the film at large and pertains to Sons of Denmark’s insistent ideologies of personal politics: by building rapport with this blameless and soon-to-be tragic pair, a process of identification is established. This sort of narrative association is continued when Sons of Denmark elaborates upon the political and social fallout of what transpires, inevitably, to have been a terrorist attack. You, of course, know the script by now - blah blah, immigrants, blah blah, values, blah blah, look like letter boxes - but the modern tragedy is that not enough people see the scaremongering for what it is: opportunist exploitation enacted by establishment men.

[ READ MORE: New to Blu-Ray - Bliss ]

The film switches its focus to Zakaria (Mohammed Ismail Mohammed), a young man of the Islamic faith, who is understandably perturbed by the hateful invective spouted on telly by an increasingly popular far-right politico (played by an excellent Rasmus Bjerg, who absolutely nails the smug presumption of these pricks, that Farage assuredness that actually the battle is half won because - and these fuckers know this - people who are already scared are easier to work up), and gets frightened enough to fight back.


sons of denmark review

Something is seriously rotten in the state of Salim’s Denmark. The situation Zakaria finds himself in - his father is dead and it’s just him, his mum and his little brother, who has learning difficulties - is loaded. In what way can you confront a public perception of a group of people which is, in some quarters, deeply entrenched? (By making a film which on one hand utterly thrills its audience while ‘making them think’ at the same time is an approach…). Crushed beneath social pressures and toxic political contexts, Zakaria struggles to find breathing space, and before you can say God is most great, our boy is involved with the local Imam, a seriously motivated fella who provides rough sanctuary for asylum seekers while also harbouring some worryingly radical ideas of his own. Zakaria, scared, proud and young, is the perfect patsy.

[ READ MORE: New to DVD - So Long, My Son ]

The Imam hooks Zakaria up with Ali (Zaki Youssef), a hardcore dodgepot who is tasked with getting Zakaria match fit. There follows the inevitable training montage, and further radicalisation (which, careful now, the twist reveals to be entirely artificial…).


sons of denmark review

Terrible to say but the peerless Four Lions has sort of ruined the impact of this sort of thing, however Salim acknowledges Chris Morris’s second best masterpiece (‘Cake’ notwithstanding) with an oblique reference to the ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’ sequence which just cannot be coincidental. Make the most of this morsel of intertextual humour though, as for the most part Sons of Denmark is otherwise deeply serious, a horribly plausible suggestion about where we are now: fractured into the broadest schisms, divided and all but conquered.

Sons of Denmark is on dual format blu-ray/DVD February 17th.




2019 movie reviews