The Idealist is a journalism procedural movie in the tradition of greats like All the Presidents’ Men and, more recently, Spotlight. Like those films, its resolutely unsexy in how it tackles its ripped-from-the-headlines subject material (and it doesn’t even have a Robert Redford or Mark Ruffalo for balance).
It feels even dialled down in comparison. The story opens with an investigation into sick workers, journalist Poul Brink’s (Peter Plauborg’s) soon finds himself in the middle of government conspiracies and hydrogen bombs. But Danish director Christina Rosendahl largely plays down any thriller potential, aside from a shadowy figure or two, instead using stock footage to emphasis the historical nature of the story.
What ultimately ensures that The Idealist deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the earlier films is how it emphasises the machinations and intricacies that drive this sort of journalism. Brink is doggedly determined in his search, to the point of overtly threatening politicians with withholding future coverage. The implicit threats behind large-scale journalism are made explicit, even warranting accusations of “extortion.” But this is how journalism works, how reporters break stories, and it’s invigorating to see it rigorously depicted onscreen. An excellent addition to the subgenre.