Movie Review: Noomi Rapace Answers ‘What Happened to Monday’
Most actors have a difficult enough time crafting one distinct character within the confines of a two-hour feature film, but Noomi Rapace delivers no less than seven compelling performances in the nifty new sci-fi flick What Happened to Monday, directed by Tommy Wirkola.
Rapace became an instant star after shining as the titular Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but it's a role that has defined her subsequent career; despite emphatic work in Hollywood films like Prometheus, The Drop, and De Palma’s underrated Passion, she’ll be forever known as Lisbeth Salander.
In a just world, however, she’d get Awards Season recognition for her work in Monday, in which she plays seven identical twins that pass themselves off as a single person in a dystopian future where having more than one child is strictly forbidden.
Her characters - each named for the single day of the week that they can venture outside their spacious apartment home - are not only identical twins, but must also play the same person to the outside world.
That means that while Rapace’s characters have different costumes and hairstyles at home throughout the film, for large portions of it in the outside world they look exactly the same. And while each of Rapace’s characters is somewhat stereotypical - the tough girl, the lover, the pothead, the computer nerd, etc. - she manages to successfully convey all of them through the same identical exterior.
It’s an impressive feat that I cannot recall another actor achieving; Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, and Eddie Murphy all relied on makeup and prosthetics to craft their unique personalities.
I only wish the storyline of What Happened to Monday lived up to the performance by its lead actress. This is a fun little B-movie, high on action but low on sci-fi imagination, and the central premise will not seem so far flung for anyone who remembers China’s one-child policy.
It’s the implementation of this dystopian policy, by a government body led by Nicolette Cayman (Glenn Close), that doesn’t feel right: there are efficient ways of ensuring a man or woman does not rear more than one child, but here they wait until each sibling is four or five before putting them to cryogenic sleep so the future can deal with them.
In flashbacks, Willem Dafoe nicely plays the grandfather who covertly raises the seven kids after the death of their mother in childbirth, and teaches them to pass of as the same person (one particularly memorable moment lifts an idea from Nolan’s The Prestige).
The events of the movie are set into motion when one of the Rapace characters, Monday, never comes home from work; the rest of the septuplets set out to investigate, one sibling and one day at a time. What Happened to Monday will not come as a surprise, but the resulting film is fast and fun and light on its feet.
Norwegian director Wirkola is best known for his Nazi zombie movies Dead Snow, along with the fairy tale action flick Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. Monday is easily the best film that he’s made; while the staging here is solid, however, credit should primarily go to Rapace’s impressive lead performance(s).