UFO Sweden [Fantastic Fest Review]

UFO Sweden is a slam dunk for fans of J.J. Abrams and early Steven Spielberg. It’s got alien spacecrafts, a sense of awe about what might be “out there,” and a visual style that’s heavy on those wonderfully atmospheric lens flares. As the title implies, this is a Swedish film. The influences are clearly American, though. It wouldn’t feel out of place if the Amblin Entertainment logo appeared before the title.

Denise, played by the charismatic Inez Dahl Torhaug, is a rebellious teen who has bounced around between foster homes ever since her father mysteriously disappeared. He was part of a group called UFO Sweden that believed extraterrestrial life was visiting our planet. Denise is convinced he was kidnapped by aliens. No one else believes her, especially Tomi (Sara Shirpey), the local cop who tries to be sympathetic.

When a red car identical to the one her father drove inexplicably crashes through a barn on the same night a red glow is spotted in the sky, Denise becomes convinced it has meaning. She joins forces with her dad’s former colleagues, led by Lennart (Jesper Barkselius), to investigate. Doing so means running afoul of government and scientific officials, putting her in intermittent danger.

UFO Sweden is packed with thrilling twists and turns, each of which adds a new level of interest to the plot. Every time it seems Denise and friends are onto something, there’s a hitch or a detail that points their search in a different direction. One of the most exciting scenes finds the group taking a very clever approach to fishing a potential alien craft from the bottom of a lake, then being shocked by what they find. Strong pacing in that sequence and others guarantees you wait with bated breath to find out what will happen next.

Director/co-writer Victor Danell (credited as Crazy Pictures) balances those suspenseful moments with humorous ones. The personalities of Lennart and his crew are quirky, yet you come to care about them over the course of the story. Comic relief they provide nicely backs up Denise’s emotional arc. She’s adrift, just wanting answers about how and why her father vanished. Everything combines to build to a satisfying, meaningful finale, made better by Torhaug’s winning performance.

In spots, the story gets mildly bogged down with scientific talk that’s a little on the dry side. Beyond that, UFO Sweden is a massively entertaining adventure with a ton of heart.

UFO Sweden is unrated, but contains brief strong language. The running time is 1 hour and 55 minutes.