The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series, the three full-length films that comprise the current DEPARTMENT Q series (named for a newly organized "cold case" division of a Danish Police Department) are tighter, more focused, less florid and bizarre than that popular Lizbeth Salander trilogy. (Of course, those very negatives are seen as attributes by those of us who love Ms Lizbeth.)
Jussi Adler-Olsen by Nikolaj Arcel (shown at right, who also wrote the original Dragon Tattoo film, as well as directing and co-writing the Oscar-nominated A Royal Affair), the trilogy has two directors: Mikkel Nørgaard (who helmed the first two films) and Hans Petter Moland (the last of them). So dark and driven are all three, however, that I don't think viewers will notice much difference in style. Molan's movie takes longer to click into gear. From there onwards, it moves like a house afire.
THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES (Kvinden i buret), as it introduces us to the characters and to this new bureau, Department Q, and to its first "case" -- looking into what was ruled a suicide but now begins to looks more like a "missing person." Here, as in each of the films, motive is as important as all else, and as we learn details of the characters of each of the antagonists, it is difficult not to feel some sympathy for them, even if we cannot excuse their actions.
Nikolaj Lie Kaas as the troubled, driven and socially awkward detective) and his new assistant, Assad (the fine Fares Fares, of the Easy Money series, who can quietly handle some of the team's toughest problems). These two are not your usual police procedural protagonists. Carl is heroic, all right, but he is as apt to get beaten up and thoroughly shamed as anything else. But he endures and drives forward.
THE ABSENT ONE (Fasandræberne), and it is the longest and, for me, the best of the three. Dealing with bullying and entitlement and how these can grow into horrific behavior if not blocked early on, the movie watches as high-school-age kids go from beating their peers to worse, until one of them can no longer handle it all. She, Kimmie, is at the heart of this tale, and Danica Curcic (below) brings her character to splendid, dark life.
Borgen's Pilou Asbæk and Men & Chicken's David Dencik -- for they are upper-class nasties who seem not to have learned a thing from any of this, except to push harder, stronger and longer into death/destruction. The plotting is twisty, the investigation smart but believable, and the outcome awful, moving, and with a keen, deep sense of justice for all.
Pål Sverre Hagen (above, right, of the Kon-Tiki remake) -- proves a formidable character, a man apparently unfettered by most of the feelings that might trouble the rest of us.
Sundance Selects/IFC Films, after a very limited theatrical release, the series hits DVD (with each film on a separate disc but in a single package) this coming Tuesday, December 20, for purchase and/or (individually) for rental. The three films can also be seen currently (in high def!) via Netflix streaming.