Darker than a dead crow’s gullet

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False Trail (15)

Heart of Hawick

NORDIC Noir in the form of superior TV series (The Killing, Wallander, The Bridge, Borgen), not to mention Stieg Larsson’s trilogy with the enigmatic Lizbeth Salander, has taught us a thing or two about murder – the making and solving of it.

Rule 1: the detective should be older, rumpled and flawed. Rule 2: sentimentality is refused entry from the start. Rule 3: wrap up warm.

False Trail has one of those titles you forget immediately after you’ve said it, which is a pity because Kjell Sundvall’s film stands tall. Crime can be cruel. It affects families and communities, like a Force 10 gale.

Erik (Rolf Lassgard) left his small town Northern roots, and joined the Stockholm CID after his brother committed suicide. His sister-in-law married a local cop, Torsten (Peter Stormare), whose tough, controlling nature affects the sensitivity of his stepson and makes others afraid of him.

When a girl goes missing in the forest, the usual suspect, a long-haired thug called Jari, is pulled in and accused of her murder. Against his better judgement, Erik agrees to investigate the case, Naturally it is neither cut nor dried. The past haunts the present, affecting Erik’s relationship with his teenage nephew, as Torsten’s actions become increasingly unpredictable.

The cinematography is pristine. The performances are rock solid. The screenwriter gathers his loose ends into a knot of twisted tension.

At no time does time drag. Secrets lubricate lies. The forces of good are compromised by the complexity of life’s contradictions.

Nordic Noir is darker than a dead crow’s gullet and brighter than the midnight sun. You cannot categorise it except by degrees of excellence.