Following an incident which left his partner hospitalised, no-nonsence cop Carl (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) is being marginalised on the force. With no-one left who will work with him, he is sent to the basement to look over 20 years of old cases and close the files. But when the loose ends in a case don’t tie up, he and his new partner Assad (Fares Fares) make further investigations, against the wishes of their superiors.
While this sounds like fairly bog-standard crime thriller material, The Keeper of Lost Causes is the best example of the genre in some time. The brooding, uncompromising, maverick cop is something that’s been done so many times you could be forgiven for thinking there is nothing left to do with it. But thanks to the superb script and brilliant performance by Kaas the character is brought to life in a way that makes him feel completely unique. Carl is a master of his craft, and has good instinct, but never does what some fictional detectives do and guesses the entire crime from a handful of tiny clues. His prickly personality feels wholly justified, and the character is invested with a downbeat sensitivity.
It sets off with a very naturalistic feel, but develops into a thriller which is as outlandish and unpredictable as Oldboy, with the look and feel of Se7en. At times brutal, constantly intense and occasionally hard to watch, this film pulls no punches. And like Se7en, in its bleaker moments it strays into territory usually reserved for horror films. The imposing atmosphere and darkness get in your head, and will glue you to the screen for every second, making it hard to write notes for a review.
It’s well crafted so all the loose ends tie up, and is as dark and serious as its protagonist. The most engaging film I’ve seen in months, and the best thriller of the year so far, I can’t recommend it enough. Treat it like a serial killer and catch it if you get the chance.