'A Conspiracy of Faith': Film Review

A Conspiracy of Faith Screenshot H 2016
IFC Films
This Nordic crime drama is plenty chilling.

The third installment in this hit Danish crime film trilogy features the cold-case police division Department Q pursuing a serial killer who preys on children.

Scandinavian crime thrillers, both onscreen and in print, are all the rage these days, so it makes sense for IFC Films to simultaneously import all three installments in Denmark's hit Department Q trilogy based on the best-selling novels by Jussi-Adler-Olsen. A Conspiracy of Faith, the most recent of the films, is receiving its U.S. theatrical premiere along with its predecessors The Keeper of Lost Causes (2013) and The Absent Ones (2015) as part of NYC's IFC Center's weeklong series Cold Cases: The Department Q Trilogy & the New Nordic Noir.

Directed by Hans Petter Moland, A Conspiracy of Faith delivers another police procedural featuring Department Q, a dead-end division dedicated to long-unsolved cases. The bare-bones team consists of Carl Morck (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), a burnt-out, terminally depressed detective who in the first film got caught up in a shootout that left one policeman dead and another paralyzed; and Assad (Fares Fares), a genial, observant Muslim who serves as the yin to his partner's yang. Other key characters are their loyal assistant, Rose (Johanne Louise Schmidt), and their barely tolerant captain, Jacobsen (Soren Pilmark).

Their latest case begins with the discovery of a literal message in a bottle, written in blood and dated eight years earlier. The detectives determine that it was written by a child, probably a Jehovah's Witness. The ensuing investigation involves children in a fundamentalist religious community whose disappearances have gone strangely unreported.

Although the storyline isn't any more distinctive than a typical episode of a CBS crime drama, the rich characterizations provide ample compensation. The often tense interactions between the two mismatched lead characters are wholly engrossing, such as when the case leads them into an argument over religion, with Assad defending it as a search for meaning and Carl labeling it "psychotic."

The film also benefits from its particularly memorable villain, Johannes (Kon-Tiki's Pal Sverre Hagen), a handsome blonde serial killer of children who is as interested in destroying their parents' faith as snatching their offspring. Two of the pic's more chilling scenes depict him patiently trying to entice two youngsters into his car and taunting a helpless, captive Carl by threatening to drown a young boy in front of his eyes.

Lie Kass and Fares play off each other nicely, with the former somehow managing to make his character's relentless moroseness compelling and the latter providing welcome emotional shadings. Together, they make one eagerly await the next cinematic adventure of Department Q.

Distributor: IFC Films
Production: Zentropa Entertainments20
Cast: Niklaj Lie Kaas, Fares Fares, Pal Sverre Hagen, Johanne Louise Schmidt, Soren Pilmark, Jakob Oftebro
Director: Hans Peter Moland
Screenwriter: Nikolaj Arcel
Producer: Louise Vesth
Executive producers: Peter Aalbaek Jensen, Maria Kopf
Director of photography: John Andreas Andersen
Production designer: Soren Schwartzberg
Editors: Olivier Bugge Coutte, Nicolaj Monberg
Costume designer: Manon Rasmussen
Composer: Nicklas Schmidt

Not rated, 112 minute