4   +   10   =  

Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Directed by: Mikkel Nørgaard

Starring: Nikolaj Lie KaasFares FaresPilou Asbæk

If you thought detective Carl Mørck (a forever frowning Nikolaj Lie Kaas) looked miserable when he reached the end of The Keeper of Lost Causes, you should see him now: so gloomy is his nature that his embittered scowl and sour complexion appear to be a permanent part of his profile. While his colleagues at the Copenhagen police department celebrate upstairs, he skulks in the dank basement headquarters of Q Department, wading through cold cases in search of a new assignment.

Director Mikkel Nørgaard’s second descent into the dark world of Danish author Jussi Adler-Olsen’s much-loved mystery series is as intensely murky as it is irritatingly mundane. A standard-issue police procedural, propelled by a perfunctory plot that, like the previous instalment, plays more to a televisual beat than a cinematic one – think The Girl Who Played With Fire, not The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Mørck, as it quickly transpires, has every reason to be despondent. He and his partner Assad (Fares Fares) have struggled to solve anything since deciphering the Merete Lynggaard disappearance, and now find themselves side-lined by their superiors and looked upon with contempt by their co-workers, who have nicknamed them “the alcoholic and the Arab”.the-absent-one-01After an ex-cop, tortured by the unsolved murder of his daughter 20 years ago, commits suicide however, the pair find themselves driven to discover what really happened to her. As before, Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg’s script drifts from the present to the past, Nørgaard deftly alternating between the two timelines as the clues become evermore cryptic.

The atmosphere is oppressively glacial. Shadowed and smoky interiors – almost always low-lit – combine with ruthlessly overcast exteriors, and the sombre score of Patrik Andrén, Uno Helmersson and Johan Söderqvist, to suffuse the screen with a biting chill so consuming it numbs your senses. Committed performances do succeed in supplementing the icy mood: a superbly enigmatic Sarah-Sofie Boussnina, playing a late-teen who may be the key to the investigation, effortlessly steals every scene she’s in, while the fantastic Fares Fares adds droplets of dry wit to the downpour of despair.

The dull air and dour tone make for devastatingly depressive viewing though. There’s no energy, but worse still, and in direct contrast to the previous film, there’s also no jeopardy. The material lacks a compelling hook, plays out in a conventional fashion, and even comes complete with an outlandish dénouement that wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of Midsomer Murders. A third episode is already on its way, but whether anyone will feel compelled to watch it remains a mystery.

★★

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