King of Devil’s Island (★★★ Empire review)

KingDevilIslandSquareStellan Skarsgård is a million miles from the world of Avengers Assemble, and closer to home, in this European co-production based on the true story of a 1915 uprising at Bastøy, a boys’ detention centre (similar to an old British ‘borstal’) situated off the icy Norwegian coast. Skarsgård is the firm-but-fair governor, who believes in ‘discipline with compassion’, but whose decision to turn a blind eye to an underling’s abuse of a mentally challenged boy leads indirectly to the rebellion. It’s earnest, well-intentioned stuff, hobbled from the outset by an unfocused and somewhat clichéd screenplay, entirely incurious about the offences that brought the boys to the island in the first place (murder is darkly hinted at, but never explored). Despite some strong performances, particularly from the youthful cast, director Marius Holst fails to fully realise the worthy subject matter’s dramatic potential. ★★★

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