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‘NR. 10’ review: Hitchcockian thriller with a twist that’s out there

A shocking twist.

NR. 10 is a Dutch film about a man who discovers a shocking secret about his past. As a child, Gunter was found abandoned in the woods and raised by foster parents. His whole life changes when he his walking alone and a man approaches him and whispers a strange word in his ear. The now adult Gunter begins to experience visions from his past. As the rest of his life crumbles around him, he tries to figure out what is happening to him. What he discovers will change everything he ever thought.

It is an interesting, if familiar, premise that writer-director Alex van Warmerdam tackles in a manner that will catch audiences off-guard. It is about half an hour before Gunter encounters the stranger and another half before it becomes central to the plot. In other words, the idea that the entire movie seems to be built on is not fully addressed for around an hour. The first part of NR. 10 is spent building the character and setting.

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This actually ends up being the majority of the runtime and is arguably the best part of the film. Initially, everything takes on a Hitchcockian feel. Every character has their own agenda and no one can be trusted. The atmosphere is heavy and no one seems to be completely happy with their lives. At best, they are living with few complaints. Everyone’s life seems run like clockwork, with strict duties and times. It is all so matter of fact that there is a pitiful quality to it all. When a secret about Gunter is revealed, it adds an element to the otherwise mundane lives that none of the people are able to adequately handle.

As the story expands and more characters are introduced, it becomes obvious that Gunter plays a bigger part than he (or the audience) realizes. Initially, he is a major part of a larger cast, but he slowly moves into the central character of NR. 10. It is a nice bit of writing, as it is obvious to anyone watching, but done subtly in the actual film. With this change comes a switch in perspective and motivations.

The back half of NR. 10 becomes a different film. The mystery about Gunter’s past takes center stage while almost every one from earlier is forgotten. It is a huge revelation that few will see coming. The moment is well done, as Gunter meets mysterious men and is taken to secluded a location where he learns the truth. Is is carefully built up before being dropped right into the audience’s lap.

As shocking as the revelation is, it has pretty much no connection to the rest of the movie. (Aside from one scene, there is no connective tissue at at all.) There are some interesting plot threads introduced, but none of them are addressed. The out of nowhere ending will certainly leave people talking, but it also undermines the strongly written first portion of NR. 10. 

NR. 10 will be available on digital platforms December 9

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