Director: Mikkel Nørgaard
Cast: Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Fares Fares, Sonja Richter
Watch The Keeper of Lost Causes online in the UK: BBC iPlayer / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
Department Q. The name suggests all manner of hijinks, a room packed with James Bond gadgets and technological trickery. But as Carl Morck (Lie Kaas) soon finds out, this is the exact opposite: after a case goes wrong, the disgraced detective is banished to a Danish police station’s basement to start the division. His mission? To excavate cold cases. A keeper of lost causes.
This is a textbook piece of Nordic noir, which conforms to all your expectations of the genre – in other words, exactly the kind of thing that helped to create the term “Nordic noir” in the first place. And so Carl finds himself investigating the disappearance of high-flying politican Merete (Richter) five years ago. He probes into the mystery, stirring up old secrets and upsetting all of his superiors. And, of course, reawakening his own ghosts of former (dead) colleagues. He even gets a comedy sidekick: Assad (Fares).
But if The Keeper of The Lost Causes follows a formula, each part of the equation is rounded up carefully. Fares Fares treads the line of annoying and amusing with a likeable charm, while the script – adapted from Jussi Adler-Olsen’s novels by The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Nikolaj Arcel – ticks the traditional twist boxes with ruthless efficiency. There is no unnecessary flashiness here; Mikkel Norgaard’s direction is suitably grim for the nastiness shown on screen, but makes no pretence that the story is anything more than a solid thriller.
What elevates it higher is Nikolaj Lie Kaas. His face is fascinating to watch as Carl, all frowns and dead eyes, while his blunt, grouchy delivery is the perfect match for the movie’s sparse, bleak humour. Sonja Richter is equally believable as the frantic damsel in distress, driving the plot’s on-rails pace to a pressurised finale that grips, despite the overly familiar grit.
Sure, this is by-the-numbers Scandi crime, but the numbers add up to something enjoyably tense. Norgaard’s experience on Klown and Borgen gives The Keeper of Lost Causes a TV-like feel, but also an ear for buddy cop entertainment and an eye for stripped-down simplicity. Department Q is the opposite of the hi-tech wizardry its name implies, but for fans of Nordic noir, that is no bad thing. With a sequel already greenlit, The Keeper of Lost Causes functions as something of a TV pilot for a series of Department Q feature films. A Scandi crime franchise based on impressively economic storytelling? More please.
The Keeper of Lost Causes is available on BBC iPlayer until 8th May 2017.
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