Title: The Keeper Of Lost Causes
Director: Mikkel Norgaard
Major Players: Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Fares Fares, Sonja Richter
Out Of Five: Four
I’m not a huge follower of Scandi crime. The occasional episode of Wallander and the excellent Martin Beck Killings on Radio Four are about my limit but, if the latest arrival of the genre on the big screen is anything to go by, that could easily change.
The Keeper of Lost Causes is adapted from the first of Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Department Q novels. I had to look that up, by the way, but it’s pretty evident at the end of the film that this is the start of a series. Department Q is devoted to reviewing cold cases – put another way, where Danish police officers are put out to grass. One of them – in fact, the only one – is the morose and chain smoking Carl Morck (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), who has returned to work after being injured in a shooting. But, not surprisingly, nobody wants to work with him so off he goes to Department Q, where he’s assigned an assistant, Assad (Fares Fares). Not surprisingly, reviewing cold cases isn’t Morck’s thing and he’s soon re-opening one about a woman who was supposed to have committed suicide.
And it’s not great surprise that he’d do that. If the film has one weakness, it’s that it’s just a wee bit predictable. It’s inevitable that Morck won’t be able to resist picking holes in the case and he eventually uncovers that she’s been kidnapped. The two stories run neatly in parallel, Morck’s dogged investigation and the ordeal of Marete (Sonja Richter) who is imprisoned in a pressurised chamber, with the pressure being increased annually. The scenes inside the chamber are filmed either in near darkness or in a murky green, both of which add to the menacing atmosphere and general claustrophobia. You do, however, feel that you’ve been here before – in CSI:Crime Scene Investigation, which is hardly Scandi – but it’s a bit more gruesome than the famous Tarantino episode. Put it this way, if you’re due a dental appointment, see the film afterwards, not before!
Alongside all those gloomy shadows, there’s some wonderful photography, including a stunning aerial shot of the police department building, with is a perfect semi-circle. And outside of the green hell of the pressure chamber, there are sudden moments of painfully, almost blinding light.
The two leads totally nail their roles and, while appearing mis-matched early on, turn out to be a good team. Lie Kaas’s Morck isn’t the least bit likeable, but as the film progresses you develop a grudging admiration for him as a detective. He has a strong sense of loyalty as well: a colleague from the shoot-out is paralysed and in hospital so Morck visits him regularly, although he’s not exactly the cheeriest of visitors. Yet the colleague tells him he’s the best cop he’s ever known. And, on this evidence, his dogged persistence and pickiness over detail does make him exceptional at his job. It’s just that his people skills aren’t up to much. Which is where Assad comes in. He has all the compassion and understanding that Morck lacks, so the two make a great double act and the scenes between them are easily some of the best in the film.
The Keeper Of Lost Causes is a very single minded film, mirroring its central character. There’s nothing to detract from the main action, so the audience never loses its focus either and, while it doesn’t hold many actual surprises, it’s very well made film with more than enough suspense to go around. If you’re a Scandi fan, you’ll be on familiar, enjoyable territory. If you’re a newcomer, this is a great place to start.
The Keeper Of Lost Causes in on release around the UK.