Mortal (2020) poster

Mortal (2020)



Norway/USA. 2020.


Director/Story – André Øvredal, Screenplay – Geoff Bussetil, Norman Lesperance & André Øvredal, Producers – Rory Aitken, John Einar Hagen, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones & Ben Pugh, Photography – Roman Osin, Music – Marcus Paus, Visual Effects Supervisors – Stephen Coren & Arne Kapuang, Visual Effects – Gimpville (Supervisor – Lars Erik Hansen), Rebel Unit, Stardust Effects (Supervisor – Otto Thorbjornsen), Storyline Studios (Supervisor – Kai Kionig Bortne), Umedia Visual Effects & Varg Studios (Supervisor – Alexander Kadim), Special Effects Supervisors – Pal Morten Hverven & Espen Kolstad, Production Design – Karl Juliusson. Production Company – Nordisk Film Production/Automatik/42/Zefyr Media Fund/Umedia/Eldorado Film.


Nat Wolff (Eric Bergland), Iben Akerlie (Christine Aas), Per Frisch (Henrik Jondal), Priyanka Rose (Cora Hathaway), Per Egil Aske (Bjorn), Arthur Hakalahti (Ole)


A man turns up outside the rural Norwegian town of Odda, stumbling about in a bedraggled condition. When a group of youths taunt him, the man causes the one who pushes him to somehow collapse dead. Taken to the police station, it is found that the man is Eric Bergland, an American with Norwegian background who had been reported missing. Youth psychologist Christina Aas is brought in. As she watches, Eric causes the room to start burning when he becomes distressed. American authorities arrive to take him away but Eric’s distresses causes a storm to manifest and down the helicopter. He returns to Christine and she takes him into hiding as she discovers his godlike abilities to summon the elements. She encourages him to control his emotions and hold his powers back. However, the authorities have mounted a massive manhunt, seeking to capture Eric.

Norwegian director Andre Øvredal gained international attention with The Troll Hunter (2010), a Found Footage film made with a quirkily eccentric sense of humour that made it a word of mouth hit. Øvredal had earlier made the little-seen Future Murder (2000). He followed The Troll Hunter with the horror film The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016), the US-made Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019) and subsequently The Last Voyage of the Demeter (2023), as well as produced the horror film Umma (2022).

Though Øvredal shoots Mortal in Norway, this is an international production, co-produced by US companies A24 and Automatik. The film imports Nat Wolff, probably best known for The Fault in Our Stars (2014) and the odd genre turn in Death Note (2017), while dialogue is divided between Norwegian and English, predominantly the latter.

Andrew Øvredal makes a film that is immediately different and draws you in. It is filled with epic shots of the fjords and landscape. There is a great opening as a bedraggled and unkempt Nat Wolff stumbles across a field as a group of youths come and one of the group (Arthur Hakalahti) starts harassing him. Wolff warns him to back off or “I will burn you,” which is ignored only for Hakalahti to suddenly start bulging at the eyes and drop dead in the field. Next Nat Wolff is taken into police custody where psychologist Iben Akerlie is brought in to help him. As he becomes stressed by what is happening, the water in the glass he has been given starts to boil and then burn marks appear on the table and walls of the room. It sets a great stage that Andre Øvredal sets for the film in these scenes.

Nat Wolff summons lightning in Mortal (2020)
Nat Wolff summons lightning

Thereafter, Mortal plays out like a fairly standard Psychic Powers film with Nat Wolff and Iben Akerlie on the run from standard Sinister Government Agencies – as per the likes of The Fury (1978), Firestarter (1984), Akira (1988), Sole Survivor (2000), Stranger Things (2016- ) and Freaks (2018). However, André Øvredal continues to build on this until we come to an epic scene in the middle of the film set on a bridge as Nat Wolff calls an entire lightning storm down. The effects in this scene come on a scale that seems to dwarf the participants against the raw displays of nature.

You suddenly cone to the realisation about halfway through that Mortal is a Superhero Film of sorts. Throughout, André Øvredal teases us with suggestions of Norse Mythology. There comes a point when these teases suddenly come together and you realise [PLOT SPOILERS] “Wait a minute, isn’t Eric supposed to be Thor?” and then it all falls into place. André Øvredal has clearly looked at the Marvel Comics Thor and asked what such a character would be like in real world terms. The film shows us on just what an epic scale Thor’s powers would exist, along with scenes of ordinary mortals coming and regarding him as a godlike being. Which makes a welcome change from the light banter and camaraderie of Chris Hemsworth and The Avengers. The only failing of the film is an abrupt and downbeat ending.

Trailer here

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