Shortly after homegrown Arab terrorists attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January 2015, a Danish citizen of Arab descent went on a rampage in Copenhagen, killing two people, including a Jewish man.
The incident, which sent shock waves throughout Denmark, is skillfully recreated by Ole Christian Madsen in his Danish-language feature film, Powder Keg, which opens on September 7 on VOD platforms.
The movie revolves around four characters: Omar, a petty criminal who admires the Islamic State organization; Dan, an Israeli of Tunisian origin who’s hard-pressed to find a job; Rico, a special forces policeman who seems burned out, and Finn, an earnest filmmaker given to serious conversations.
Omar, an ethnic Arab, is in prison when he’s first seen on camera. “The caliphate is the future,” he tells a fellow inmate in a reference to Islamic State’s newly-established Islamic fundamentalist entity in Iraq and Syria.
Finn, meanwhile, grows angry upon finding out that his idea for a film about the Paralympics has been hijacked.
Released from jail pending his appeal, Omar continues to be enthralled by Islam State’s successes on the ground. By 2015, it held substantial swaths of territory and had managed to attract tens of thousands of regional and foreign fighters to its ranks.
“Abu Bakr will show the way,” says Omar, referring to Islamic State’s charismatic leader. Eager to lend his services to radical Islam, Omar practices shooting with a submachine gun.
His indignation aroused by the irreverent drawings of Mohammed the Prophet by a Danish cartoonist, Omar takes matters into his own hands. Having learned that the cartoons will be discussed at an upcoming lecture, he fires into a building as it takes place in real time, shattering glass and causing an uproar. As a man rushes toward Omar in an attempt to disarm him, he fatally shoots him in cold blood.
The police arrive at the crime scene, only to be alerted to another shooting in front of a synagogue in the center of the city.
Powder Keg, deftly directed by Madsen and featuring a fine Danish cast, moves along at a brisk pace as tensions reach a crescendo of suspense.