Jar City

In Baltasar Kormakur's downbeat procedural thriller, based on novelist Arnaldur Indridason's Tainted Blood, the routine investigation of a "messy and pointless" murder leads to a 30-year-old crime whose ramifications extend into Iceland's ambitious and controversial gene-mapping project. Four-year-old Kola (Rafnhildur Rosa Atladotir) lies dying in her...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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In Baltasar Kormakur's downbeat procedural thriller, based on novelist Arnaldur Indridason's Tainted Blood, the routine investigation of a "messy and pointless" murder leads to a 30-year-old crime whose ramifications extend into Iceland's ambitious and controversial gene-mapping project.

Four-year-old Kola (Rafnhildur Rosa Atladotir) lies dying in her hospital bed, her grief-stricken father, Orn (Atli Rafn Sigurosson), is petitioning the national data protection commission -- charged with safeguarding the privacy of Icelanders who contributed genetic data to Iceland's Central Health Database -- for information.

In Reykjavik, Detective Erlendur (Ingvar E. Sigurosson) and his colleagues, Sigurour Oli (Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson) and Elínborg (Olafía Hronn Jonsdottir), are called to a murder scene: Loner Holberg Jonsson (Thorsteinn Gunnarsson) has been bludgeoned to death with an ashtray in his rank basement apartment in a quiet neighborhood. A thorough search turns up only one unusual item in his thoroughly depressing home: A photograph of a child's grave, which Erlendur finds taped to the underside of a drawer. The dead girl, Aude Kolbrunsdottir, turns out to have died of a brain tumor in 1974 at the age of 6; her mother, Kolbrun, committed suicide, and her birth certificate lists no father. Erlendur's dogged determination to find a link between Holberg and the long-dead child uncovers a sordid story of rape, blackmail and police corruption in the small coastal town of Grindavik, events whose poisonous legacy continues to blight lives three decades later.

Like Swedish writers Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo's Martin Beck novels (several of which have been filmed, including THE LAUGHING POLICEMEN), Indridason's melancholy mystery novels are less about unraveling intricate clues than they are portraits of police officers and the particular confluence of geography, history and social circumstances that shape them. Erlendur's relationships with his colleagues and his drug-addicted daughter, Eva (Agusta Eva Erlendsdottir), play out against the backdrop of a cold, geographically isolated country where three-quarters of the land is barren and almost everyone is related (hence the gene-mapping project) at the same time that family names -- and by extension, lineage -- are so inconsequential that they change from one generation to the next: "Aude Kolbrunsdottir" is literally "Aude, Kolbrun's daughter." JAR CITY builds slowly, but when all the dots are connected, the story that emerges is devastating.

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  • Released: 2006
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: In Baltasar Kormakur's downbeat procedural thriller, based on novelist Arnaldur Indridason's Tainted Blood, the routine investigation of a "messy and pointless" murder leads to a 30-year-old crime whose ramifications extend into Iceland's ambitious and con… (more)

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