Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 16, 2020)
A thriller with a supernatural twist, 2020’s Mortal takes us to Norway. There we meet Eric Bergland (Nat Wolff), a 20-something American who backpacks his way through this territory.
Matters complicate when Eric gets to a small Norwegian town. According to witnesses, some bizarre events connect to Eric, such as the death of a teen (Arthur Hakalahti) who simply touches him.
These matters lead authorities to arrest Eric, and in that situation, he meets with a psychologist named Christine Aas (Iben Akerlie). Eric claims he possesses bizarre powers, so Christine needs to separate truth from fiction.
All of that seems like a good premise for a comic book-style tale, and Mortal starts off in a reasonably promising matter. During its first act, the movie interests us with Eric’s abilities and concerns, elements that manage to draw us into the narrative in a moderate manner.
However, this opening proves to deliver nothing more than a tease, as Mortal quickly loses steam. Once Eric gets in police custody and meets Christine, the story goes off the rails and becomes an illogical mess.
Much of Mortal winds up as a “road movie” in which Christine tries to spirit Eric away from the authorities and help him cope with his abilities. This makes much of the tale a cat and mouse as they attempt to evade capture from a team led by Agent Hathaway (Priyanka Bose).
In a good film, this pursuit would create tension and drama. Here, however, the whole thing feels half-hearted and dull.
Much of Mortal revolves around the Eric/Christine relationship, one that inevitably turns romantic in a hurry. Why? Because the screenwriters can’t come up with anything more creative, I guess, so they fall back on cheap tropes.
That goes for the rest of the movie as well. Mortal often feels like an X-Men character origin story, and it finds little new or fresh to do with this material.
Eric just becomes a ball of angst without any other character traits, and Christine feels like a sap because she actively puts herself in harm’s way to be with Eric. As noted earlier, this plot trend exists simply due to screenwriter laziness, as I guess they couldn’t think of a way to develop the characters without a tacky, unmotivated romance.
As Mortal progresses, one might hope that it develops the roles or themes, but one will hope in vain, as it remains resolutely flat. The movie mixes ominous foreboding with spurts of action, none of which pack a punch.
I like that Mortal aspires to deliver more of a character-based tale of superpowers than the usual extravaganza. Unfortunately, the thin characters and dull “action” makes the end result a slow clunker.