Jar City


A blockbuster in its native Iceland, adapted from Arnaldur Indridason’s 2000 bestseller, this somber, sinewy police procedural by the talented actor-writer-director Baltasar Kormakur (The Sea) could pass for an episode of CSI: Reykjavik, only with less high-tech gimmickry, more pavement-pounding, and a head-clearing view of crime as anything but a cool diversion. The discovery of a bludgeoned body sets seen-it-all cop Erlendur (Ingvar E. Sigurosson) and his squad on the trail of a decades-old mystery involving rape allegations, a corrupt small-town constable, and his trio of thug enforcers. Meanwhile, in a seemingly unconnected side plot, a dead girl’s grieving father (Atli Rafn Sigurosson) immerses himself in shady doings at a genetic research facility. The sharing of genomic and medical data—an ongoing controversy in a country of only 300,000 residents—stoked the movie’s popularity at home, where the issue of who has the right to control (or reveal) personal histories resonates strongly. 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.