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‘Another Round’: Four men experiment with teaching while intoxicated

Mads Mikkelsen does nomination-worthy work as the man whose boozy new routine pays off — at first.

Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) and his fellow high school teachers make a pact to keep drinking all day in “Another Round.”
Samuel Goldwyn Films

Martin is a high school history teacher who has just turned 40 and feels stuck in a rut. Sure, he has a steady job and a wonderful wife and two lovely sons and a comfortable home — but he feels so disconnected. What happened to the passion he once felt for his wife, the love he once held for teaching, the rush of excitement he felt at the start of each day?

If only Martin could find a way to capture lightning in a bottle once more. Or perhaps the lightning can COME from a bottle?

So begins Thomas Vinterberg’s audaciously provocative and wickedly funny Danish comedy/drama “Another Round,” featuring the versatile Mads Mikkelsen (“Casino Royale,” “Hannibal”), he of the chiseled face and often startling intensity, in one of the best performances of his career. Mikkelsen’s Martin joins three of his teaching colleagues at a Copenhagen High School — soccer coach Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), choir director Peter (Lars Ranthe) and philosophy instructor Nikolaj (Magnuss Millang) — in an experiment based on the theories of real-life Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skarderud, who believes humans are born with a .05% Blood Alcohol Content alcohol deficit and should compensate by drinking alcohol throughout the day.

Yeah, I’m skeptical too.

The four men make a pact to follow the drinking rules once espoused by Hemingway: never drink after 8 p.m. or on the weekends (as if that worked out for Hemingway). Start your morning with a little jolt and take a swig here and there, and yes, that means this quartet will be drinking on the job — as high school teachers. What could possibly go right?

Actually, the experiment succeeds spectacularly, at least for a while. Martin becomes a rock-star teacher with his energetic and bold new lesson plans — and stuns his wife Anika (Marie Bonnevie) by finally taking the family on a weekend getaway and making love to her with ferocious intensity. Tommy rallies his ragtag soccer club to victory, inspiring the smallest and nerdiest team member, whom he calls “Specs,” to score a game-winning goal. Choir director Peter inspires the students to produce vocals that soar with the angels. Nikolaj becomes a source of great encouragement and inspiration to a failing student.

Director and co-writer Vinterberg do a masterful job of chronicling these everyday triumphs by the four friends without ever glamorizing their methodology. Even at their greatest moments of triumph, these men are putting out fires with gasoline, and we know it’s only a matter of time before at least one of them will break the rules and keep drinking after 8 p.m., and on the weekends, and eventually during every waking moment.

“Another Round” nimbly treads a rarely traveled road between party-hard drinking comedies such as “The Hangover” and “Animal House” and tragedies such as “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Leaving Las Vegas.” It is neither celebration nor lecture, though there’s much laughter and no shortage of sobering consequences. The cast is outstanding, with Mikkelsen leading the way in a nomination-level performance as Martin. “Another Round” is filled with memorable sequences, as when an inebriated Martin receives the best news possible and literally dances in exultation, when what he really should be doing is sobering up and going home.