Scandinavian crime fiction has been very much in vogue of late and The Keeper of Lost Causes is the sort of typical police procedural that is found in the genre. The story follows policeman Carl Mørck, a brusque fellow who is demoted to a position in a section of the Police HQ known as Department Q. The reasons for the name are unexplained but rather than being inspired by James Bond's gadget-creating colleague it is fact a tatty cellar containing files on unsolved 'cold cases'. Essentially Mørck has been put out to pasture as a prelude to retirement.
Unsurpringly, rather than doing the simple job he has been assigned of providing brief summaries of each case, the protagonist, with assistance from a colleague who has been sent to the same department, decides to reopen a case involving a missing politician who has been presumed dead. Mørck is played by Nikolaj Lie Kaas who appeared in the Danish crime series The Killing (Forbrydelsen) which seemed appropriate considering how much of the plot's DNA seems to have been inherited from that show; there is the dedicated cop devoted to their job yet lacking a family life, a politician and someone who is being kept captive by a criminal. Mørck's lack of social skills also put me in mind of The Bridge (Broen)'s Saga Norén. If you have seen Oldboy the captive's situation might feel a little familiar, too.
The storyline was fairly intriguing to begin with but the structure used of alternating between the investigation and flashbacks to past events suffers from giving the viewer too much information which puts them one step ahead of the cops, and thus reduced the tension. The film does benefit from stylish cinematography and some nice mood music but this wasn't enough to save a rather perfunctory narrative which lacks depth. In most drama you would expect to see characters changing during the course of the story; here Mørck and his sidekick Assad seem to come out at the end of the movie just as they began.
Those new to Scandinavian crime fiction might enjoy this more than those with some knowledge of the genre due to unfamiliarity with the themes explored here but for afficionados there is nothing really new on offer here. Maverick cops who don't get on with their bosses has been done many times before and it strained credulity that they didn't sack him for disobeying his superiors instead of just moaning at him a bit. Whilst quite well made and benefiting from decent performances, The Keeper of Lost Causes just wasn't memorable enough to stand out from its Nordic Noir rivals.