The third and most recent arrival in the Department Q series of crime thrillers, "A Conspiracy of Faith" marks the darkest and most gripping screen adaptation of the Jussi Adler-Olsen novels to date.
Returning from a too-brief sick leave after his previous cold case investigations took a toll on his already tormented psyche, Copenhagen homicide detective Carl Morck (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) is required to snap into action when a bottle washes up on a Jutland shore.
Inside is a desperate note written in faded blood by a young boy who had been held hostage eight years earlier, sending Carl and his partner, Assad (Fares Fares), to a remote religious sect that has seen other children go missing since.
Taking over the reins from Mikkel Nørgaard, who solidly directed the first two entries, Hans Petter Molland lends the new film a greater cinematic depth which succeeds in visually elevating it above small screen cold case dramas.
Working from an adaptation again penned by Nikolaj Arcel, Molland sets an evocative stage for the unsettling developments with the help of cinematographer John Andreas Andersen's strikingly moody imagery and Nicklas Schmidt's menacing score.
But once again, it's the characters who anchor the franchise, and here the religious setting allows Kaas' hardened atheist Carl and Fares' Assad, a Muslim, to engage in an introspective, timely discourse on faith and belief.
Three films in — and with six Department Q novels published so far — this intelligent, rewarding series could easily benefit from further investigation.
'Department Q: A Conspiracy of Faith'
In Danish with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 52 minutes
Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood