The Keeper of Lost Causes / Kvinden i buret (2013)

Posted: August 30, 2014 in Crime, Danish, Mystery, Thriller

The Keeper of Lost Causes (2)

Director: Mikkel Nørgaard

Writers: Nikolaj Arcei (from the novel by Jussi Adler-Olsen)

Country: Denmark / Germany / Sweden

Runtime: 97 mins

Cast: Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Fares Fares, Sonja Richter, Ernst Boye

A taut, efficient police thriller, but hardly original

The Keeper of Lost Causes is a rather curious film. It is enjoyable enough (though not for the squeamish), but doesn’t really offer anything more than you would expect from television dramas such as Wallander or Waking The Dead. Based on the first of Jussi Adler-Olsen’s “Department Q” detective series, the key characters are an odd-couple pair of cops who are the sole operatives in a cold case unit (whose status is indicated by its location in a dusty basement).

Nikolaj Lie Kaas plays Carl Mørck, a taciturn former homicide cop who no-one will work with, following a disastrous operation. He finds himself relegated to Department Q, where he is expected to do no more than shuffle through cold case files and to close three of them every week. Mørck’s partner is Assad (Fares Fares), a big friendly Muslim of middle-Eastern origin (in the book he is a Syrian refugee). Aspects of these men’s lives are hinted at but not developed, presumably allowing scope for treatment in any sequels. For example, Mørck has the obligatory family problems (separated from wife; a wayward stepson), and we never discover what misdemeanour has led Assad to be assigned to Department Q. 

Rather than simply closing the files as directed, Mørck begins investigating a case that he is familiar with. This concerns the disappearance, believed to be suicide, of politician Merete Lynggaard (Sonja Richter). However, Mørck’s boss is far from happy to discover that his officers are going round upsetting people with their questions, not to mention exceeding their meagre budget. Thus, drawing on another familiar trope of cop movies, our men are suspended but carry on anyway, before the ultimate redemption. 

The one pleasingly novel element in The Keeper of Lost Causes is the inclusion of a sympathetic Muslim character (as opposed to the usual crazed villains of Hollywood movies). On the negative side, however, is the lack of any significant female characters other than the victim (Wallander and Waking The Dead managed to create significant parts for women).

Presumably this is meant to be the first of a series of Department Q book adaptations, but really this is television rather than cinematic material.

Rating: 6/10

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