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Jan 30, 2013An intelligent, engaging, multi-layered storyline that blends strained family relations, unsolved murders, and infuses some icelandic customs keeping the viewer captivated from beginning to end. Despite the lack of shock value, the film maintains a consistant sense of suspense throughout. "Jar City" is chilly and cerebral but also morbidly and powerfully alive to grossness and physicality. At home one evening Detective Erlendur (Ingvar E. Sigurdsson) tears into his customary sheep's head with his fingers, munching an eyeball while he reviews a case file. It's at once grotesque, sensual and strangely tender, all words that might equally describe this strange and absorbing movie.
Director Baltasar Kormákur elegantly churns out a first-rate mystery by dressing it with organic cinematography and a score reminiscent of eerie Gregorian chants. But his best move is a focus on an unlikely secondary character - Iceland itself. He wisely employs this unique, almost otherworldly qualities of its setting--presented as both beautiful and threatening. The cinematography is simply stunning, truly enhancing the ambience to an ominous storyline and landscape. In 1974, a young Icelandic girl dies at the hands of a murderer, and the crime was never solved. In present day, the aged and exhausted detective Erlendur begins to investigate a link between that notorious unsolved crime, and the unrelated homicide of a local criminal years after the fact. Erlendur has a difficult private life, his wife has passed away, and he has a pregnant daughter Eva Lind (Agusta Eva Erlendsdottir) who is a drug addict and roams the streets. Meanwhile, Örn (Atli Rafn Sigurdarson), an employee at a DNA-mapping lab, struggles with the death of his own daughter, who suffered from a brain tumor. In time, the two men's lives will intersect in a myriad of ways that neither can even begin to foresee -- and the motivation for Holberg's original crime will become resoundingly clear.
"Jar City" turns out to be intricate and pointed, conjuring a haunting, satisfying puzzle out of violence and chaos. The murder, of an old man named Holberg, opens up a nest of older crimes and brooding secrets. Erlendur finds himself investigating a possible rape from 30 years before and unraveling a tangled history of police corruption and petty brutality. What it all has to do with Holberg is no more clear to the audience than it is to the detective. But Erlendur's combination of bluntness and analytical acumen informs Mr. Kormákur's storytelling technique, making "Jar City" an unusually forceful and thought-provoking thriller. "Jar City" (or Mýrin), is adapted from Icelandic writer Arnaldur Indridason's 2000 best-seller, "Tainted Blood."… Expand
A taut police procedural that craftily blends ripped-from-the-headlines genetic issues with foreboding Icelandic stoicism, Jar City reps a supremely confident stride into mass-appeal genre fare for Icelandic hyphenate Baltasar Kormakur.
Here, the movie's urgency lies mostly in its convincing cast, its varied urban-to-pastoral locations (in light that ranges from harsh to bilious), and its cold-pro handling of familiar genre machinery, made fresh by unusual detail--such as the investigator's fast-food predilection for sheep heads.