The Absent One: Review

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This moody Danish crime drama is a sequel to 2013’s The Keeper of Lost Causes, and likewise based on a novel from Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Department Q series.

Grumpy and belligerent detective Carl Mørck (Nikolaj Lie Kaas – who also co-writes) heads up a special department with his partner Assad (Zero Dark Thirty’s Fares Fares) to investigate old cold cases. Unfortunately, they’ve dug up little since the events of the last film, and as the laughing stock of the police station, they’re in need of a win.

Following the suicide of a former police commissioner, “The Drunk and The Arab” – as their charming co-workers call them – delve into an unsolved murder from the 90s. They soon find themselves tangled up with an aristocratic group that indulged in drug-fuelled orgies of violence and rape back in their private school days, but dragging down Denmark’s business elite won’t be easy, especially when Mørck and Assad realise just how far their insidious influence reaches.

Fans of the Nordic-noir film and television phenomenon will be familiar with the formula here, but unlike some, The Absent One is slickly cinematic, and aesthetically has more in common with Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remake than the gritty Swedish original. Stylish use of light, shadow and colour add flourish to the bleak yet beautiful landscapes and grubby underworlds of the Denmark presented here.

Yet substance is still front-and-centre in the film, and while it’s keen to peek into the dark heart of human nature, it doesn’t dwell on gratuitous scenes of violence. Instead, it emphasises the emotional impact and implications of such behaviour, especially during sequences of teenage mischief that descend into disturbing depravity.

As the second film of a series, it would have been good to see more insight into Mørck and Assad’s relationship beyond mumbled grunts through cigarette smoke, although a post-climax coda does hint at a deeper resonance for Mørck’s character development.

Darker and more compelling than The Keeper of Lost Causes, The Absent One is released in the UK on 8th April, with a third film on the way.

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