Review: The Keeper of Lost Causes – 3/5

Director: Mikel Nørgaard  

Certificate: 15

Cast: Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Fares Fares, Sonja Richter

Running Time: 1hr 37min

Plot: A traumatised murder detective (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) gets reassigned to Department Q, a dead end desk jockey section of the police force which has been set up to sort through twenty years’ worth of cold cases. Based on the first of a series of best selling crime novels by Danish polymath Jussi Adler-Olsen.

KeeperOfLostCauses1The Danish are coming! The Danish are coming! Nicolas Winding Refn (Valhalla Rising, Drive), Lars Von Trier (Nymphomaniac, Antichrist), Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt); all these men are recognised of masters of their craft, celebrated as their nation’s greatest cultural exports. Now potentially joining that group of discerning artistes is Mikel Nørgaard, the director behind Danish language crime thriller The Keeper of Lost Causes – or Kvinden i buret, to use its proper Dane name. Bouncing around between wintry cold Copenhagen and even colder cold Sweden, The Keeper of Lost Causes is an engaging, suspense-driven film about an odd pair of cops and their hunt for a missing politician (Sonja Richter) deemed by investigators to be five years dead. 

KeeperOfLostCauses2Carl (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) is the primary hero, a has-been detective whose closest comrades are either deceased or paralysed. He’s a hard man to empathise with, but Kaas’s off putting intensity becomes engrossing the further the story’s murder case progresses. Partner-in-(solving)crime Assad (Fares Fares) is an even more interesting character, a Muslim policeman who pays no heed to discrimination nor the temptation of surrender. The Keeper of Lost Causes works as a buddy cop film and murder mystery simultaneously. Purposefully shocking incidents of abuse, violence and vengeance give the film more than a tint of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which is not really surprising since they share a screenwriter in novel-adaptor Nikolaj Arcel. Moreover, the investigative techniques employed by Carl and Assad – namely sifting through papers with a concerned looks on their faces or interviewing Danes and Swedes that look like perverts – provide an ever bigger slice of Deja vu for anyone who enjoyed the Stieg Larsson movie trilogy. Slap on a healthy dollop of reminiscences from tragic and/or sinister childhoods, and you have a story and character background that feels far from fresh.

KeeperOfLostCauses3The tone and feel are extremely dark, at times overbearingly so, but the nerve wracking plot is sustained by an emphatic performance from Sonja Richter as long-term captive Merete, as well as the slow but steady bond that develops between lead detectives Carl and Assad, who have been unwillingly thrown together into the Department Q ‘cold case’ division. Since this is a series, I’d welcome another one, but one can only hope it is less predicable than the many, many Swedish murder stories I read once on holiday in a Stockholm hostel before deciding to do criminology as a degree.

Check out the trailer below.


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