Director: Tommy Wirkola
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Willem Dafoe
Watch What Happened to Monday online in the UK: Netflix UK
What’s the only thing better than Noomi Rapace? Seven Noomi Rapaces. If that was the only thinking behind this ambitious sci-fi thriller, which sees The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s star play a set of septuplets, you can’t blame writers Max Botkin and Kerry Williamson. Sure enough, Noomi Rapace is fantastic in the lead role – all of them. But What Happened to Monday struggles to come up with anything as inspired as its central conceit.
The film is set in the near future, after the world’s population has grown so rapidly that it’s unsustainable. The solution? The “Child Allocation Act”, introduced by The Bureau, a governing body led by stern scientist Nicolette (Glenn Close, because this is all she seems to do these days). The policy is simple: each family gets one child, with the others put on ice to be woken up again in the future, when technology has found a way to support them all.
It’s needless to see that things are more sinister than that – you can tell from the way Terrence Settman (Willem Dafoe) decides that, instead of revealing his surplus grandchildren to the authorities, he’ll hide them inside the walls of his apartment. Naming them after the days of the week, they each get 24 hours in turn to go outside and be “Karen” Settman, following the routine of her job, her commute and her social life. But when one goes missing, the other six must ask: what happened to Monday?
There’s something wonderfully daft about the time-old tradition of a performer playing multiple, identical parts, and so it’s to the movie’s credit that at no point do you stop to think about it: Rapace is skilled enough to flesh out of each of her personalities to be just more than their basic stereotypes (the sensual one, the straight-laced one, the hacker one, and so on). When Rapace is making them play off against each other – or, more accurately, play off against the men hunting them down – you care about them all the same.
The effects are seamless too, with director Tommy Wirkola neatly stitching together the actor’s performances, while framing them against a backdrop that opts for grimy and low-key over expensive and shiny – a crucial creative choice that allows the affordably-budgeted thriller to appear as realistic as possible. But the grundy, smoky, ad-filled urban landscape – think future retroism, rather than retro futurism – also accentuates the film’s shortcomings, as it recalls Blade Runner, a story with greater depth, bolder themes and more originality.
There’s an element of social satire to this tale, but What Happened to Monday needs more sting to keep us hooked in between the relatively few (but effective) action set pieces. Dafoe and Rapace deliver some emotional reveals in the final act that turn this partly into a study of loyalty and identity, and the idea of sacrificing oneself for the group – one moment involving a household injury is wince-inducingly brutal. But romantic subplots and generic baddies are the weak moments that highlight the movie’s more derivative qualities, and it’s that lack of innovation or surprise that stops What Happened to Monday truly impressing. When you’ve got seven Noomi Rapaces, there’s no real excuse for not making the most of them.
What Happened to Monday is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription.