Police inspector Carl Mørck is put in charge of a department of cold cases, joined only by his assistant, Assad. They dig into a case about a disappeared woman.
The question really is just how long will this goodwill for Scandinavian mystery detective thrillers last? De rigeur at present, it seems that everything that hails from the area seems to be welcomed with open arms. Could it be that everything released from this mostly expensive part of Europe is actually that good? We’ve had the likes of The Killing and The Girl Who franchise of both books and films (good enough to spawn an English language movie version *shudder*) not to mention more than our share of horror. Perhaps this seemingly inhospitable area of Europe really does produce characters that are stubborn, determined and really, really smart. Just like their writers, it seems.
Nikolaj Arcel’s adaptation of Jussi Adler-Olsen’s book is becoming quite the familiarity, if we’re honest. This cold-blooded approach to humanity told through the eyes of those that are used to seeing only the worst that man has to offer was both original and unique a few years ago and inarguably caught the attention of the many cinephiles when Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist first appeared on our big screens, wisened by the demons of their own species but still holding onto a belief that they should do what is right, in spite of everything that maybe suggested they were just wasting their time.
The invasion continues here, in the guise of one Carl Mørck, a homicide detective back on duty after three months recuperation after a sting went wrong enough to leave him and his partner in hospital. Luckily enough for Carl, he was able to walk away, though his partner was not so lucky. Assigned to a new project, Department Q, Carl new role involves going over cold cases and closing them. A desk job. Naturally this no-nonsense, grizzled, hard-nosed detective is less than impressed. Nevertheless, it’s that or nothing.
So rather than just do as his superiors require of him, this maverick cop who doesn’t take orders from anyone, re-opens the first case he comes to, rather than giving it the scant attention his superiors prefer and then closing it again. This first case involves the ‘apparent’ suicide of a young woman who threw herself, it is believed, off the side of a ferry to her death.
You can see where this is going, right? Already there are sequels jostling for position, vying for attention as the most worthy of stories will almost certainly get an airing.
The story here is suitably grim, befitting the kind of tale we have come to expect when having to read subtitles. Of course this poor woman didn’t commit suicide. This would be a pretty short movie if she had. Instead we get a blow-by-blow account, lead you by the hand, the clues are there because we’re going to point them out to you like leading a horse to water.
It’s not complicated stuff, it has to be said, and you get the impression at times that the film-makers must assume their audiences are cretins. We get back-story flashbacks to allude further to what’s going on and if you haven’t worked the whole thing out for yourself before the film blurts all of it out for you, then you really need to get out more and talk to other humans.
Shot very well, the oppressive tone and feel of incarceration and a race against time is achieved well but you will also get the feeling that Arcel doesn’t really have much faith in his audience as this could only have been less subtle had he been actually pounding you in the face with a plastic tray with the plot written in big capital letters all over it. Still, it looks good and the performances from the main characters seems very authentic. Having a largely unknown (to me) cast does wonders as you really can’t imagine any of them doing anything else, which does no harm to the believability. There is little real engagement for any of them, however, which may be a stumbling block for future enterprises and the character of Carl particularly would need to be fleshed out considerably if this is going to be more than anything than a one off experience.
In summary, a simple plot, decent performances and believable characters makes this another interesting Scandinavian export, but maybe falls short by not giving the audience the credit it deserves. Definitely worth a viewing, however. Possibly even more than one.
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