Director: Tommy Wirkola
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Willem Dafoe, Glenn Close, Marwan Kenzari, Pål Sverre Hagen, Tomiwa Edun, Robert Wagner, Christian Rubeck, Clara Read
Monday. Bloody Monday.
No connotation surrounding Monday is ever positive. The start of the working week, songs by The Bangles, a missing sister. Huh? A missing sister? Yep, the title of the movie is also a question/statement. Monday, one of seven identical sisters played by Noomi Rapace, disappears after gaining a crucial promotion at work, however that’s just part of a larger narrative at play. The sisters can never leave their apartment under fear of arrest.
Thankfully, this movie is one positive Monday connotation.
In a grubby, overpopulated dystopian future (2073 to be precise), families are limited to only one child, an act governed by the Child Allocation Bureau and its head Nicolette Cayman (Close). If multiple children are born, all but the eldest are taken at birth and put into cryosleep until a brighter future arrives. Karen Settman gives births to identical septuplets (man, that’s gotta hurt) but dies immediately afterwards. The baby’s grandfather Terrence (Dafoe) strikes a silence deal with the hospital to keep the babies and names them after the days of the week, in order of birth.
As they grow, Terrence educates them and teaches them to pose as one single personality – using their mothers name in order to avoid arrest. When it comes to leaving the apartments, each girl is allowed out on the day that corresponds with their name - however, if, say, one sister loses part of her finger in a skateboarding accident, then the wound must be replicated on the remaining six. Brutal. As adults, the sisters each don identical outfits and wigs and live an ‘ordinary’ working life at a financial institute, before returning to feedback on their day’s activities to inform the next sister – which should include details such as sleeping with a CAB agent, namely Adrian (Kenzari), but sometimes things slip through the net.
‘Karen Settman’ is up for a promotion and its Monday’s chance to take, however, a slimy work colleague Jerry (Hagen) lets slip that he knows the sisters secret and is willing to turn her in. That night, Monday doesn't return home leaving Tuesday with no choice but to search for her, beginning a fateful chain of events for the sisters and their lives.
What Happened to Monday is the latest in a long line of bleak, dystopian future movies and in that sense offers very little that’s unique. However, what the movie does is to not have the background and landscape be a major player in proceedings – sure there’s some cool technology, but nothing mind-blowing – the city exists simply as a location and not a focal point of the movie, as opposed to the eye-melting OTT visuals of Ghost in the Shell which end up taking over the movie. This movie retains the standard grey-washed visuals, dreary weather and overly-lived in surroundings, however.
Noomi Rapace is tasked with playing seven identical siblings, and let’s be honest, that must have been a blast. Each has their own individual quirks whilst falling into heavily-defined stereotypes – the brainy one, the loose one, the rebellious one etc. It’s quite the sight witnessing seven Rapace’s simultaneously bounce off each other’s personalities and how each deals with situations differently. It’s the sign of a very talented actress and Rapace is brilliant throughout. Also, newcomer Clara Read is admirable as the seven young ‘Karens’.
The movie’s first half plays out a lot slower than it’s second. The exposition is quickly dealt with as we see the children grow up, their grandfather’s influence on them and their progression to adulthood, showing how they deal with their imprisoned and repressed lives. It’s more drama than anything else, but this changes up in the second half as the movie veers into more action-thriller territory. The pace notably quickens and the plot thickens and unravels just as quickly. The action sequences are hard-hitting and violent, there’s a real rough edge to them – less finesse, more brutal. The sound design helps here too as every thud bellows from the screen and every crash explodes likewise. The movie suffers from an identity issue, though, as it flirts with sci-fi and action without settling comfortably into either.
The villains of the piece are hit-and-miss. Glenn Close pulls off her best Caitlin Jenner look as she hams away in short spells without ever really coming off as too sinister. Christian Rubeck, as CAB agent Joe, is more convincing as he prowls after the sisters looking for nothing but death, corpses and a swift conclusion to events. No messing, just killing.
Not enough Willem Dafoe is never a good thing (though his character has just the right amount of screen time, even if his disappearance is never clarified).
What Happened to Monday is a surprisingly decent movie in spite of any shortcomings. Its remarkable lead performance sets the standard and with some thrilling action and tense drama weaved in, the movie is an intriguing, if not life changing, event.
August 31st 2017