From Denmark comes taut crime thriller, “The Keeper of Lost Causes.” Directed by Mikkel Nørgaard with screenplay by Nikolaj Arcel based on Jussi Adler-Olsen’s hugely successful novel of the same name, “The Keeper of Lost Causes” will grip you from the very beginning.
Biding their time until backup arrives, the story begins with a stake-0ut featuring three detectives and some of their very amusing conversation about a flashing street light. Amusing goes shockingly horrific in a matter of minutes. We then meet up again with one of the detectives, Carl Mørck (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), several months later. We learn from Carl’s supervisor, Marcus (Søren Pilmark), that Carl has never been easy to work with and now he is even less so. Marcus informs Carl that he’s been move from Homicide to run Department Q, a newly created division charged with categorizing and clearing out open cold cases.
Assigned to Carl is Assad (Fares Fares), a police officer just happy to come out of his former basement assignment into a new position. Although the two are just meant to cleanup cases—three a week—that isn’t enough for Carl. The photo and case file of a female Danish official, Merete Lynggaard (Sonja Richter), attracts his attention. Her case was presumed to be a suicide…jumping off a ferry…but her body was never recovered. Carl questions whether a woman would kill herself when she’s accompanied on the ferry by her mentally challenged younger brother. Against the confines of his designated duties, Carl decides to investigate and finds a willing accomplice in Assad.
“The Keeper of Lost Causes” follows several paths. First there is the developing relationship between Carl and Assad. We don’t learn a lot about Assad, other than that he is a practicing Muslim who makes very strong coffee, but we do gain greater insight into what makes Carl tick. Then there is the sad and moving story of the brother, Uffe Lynggaard (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard), and what has happened to him in the years since his sister vanished. Finally are the very mysterious events surrounding Merete Lynggaard (Sonja Richter) and her disappearance.
Søren Pilmark is perfectly cast as Carl, the taciturn, never by the book detective. Fares Fares’ Assad has a twinkle in his eye that shows he somehow “gets” Carl, and his scenes with Mikkel Boe Følsgaard are also very strong. Sonja Richter’s performance is very hard to watch, but she is amazingly good in them. Følsgaard is terrific as the mentally and emotionally challenged brother.
“The Keeper of Lost Causes” is an interesting combination of CBS’ “Cold Case” and “Without a Trace” series, only much, much better. The film is engaging on every level. Yes, there are holes or questions that might make one ask, “Why didn’t they do…? But those concerns fall by the wayside in the wake of the film’s compelling story.
“The Keeper of Lost Causes,” Denmark’s highest grossing film for 2013, was shown as part of Filmfest DC and is expected to have a wide release. It is well worth seeking out.