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Cold as ice

PUBLISHED: 14:04 11 September 2008 | UPDATED: 17:11 16 August 2010

BALTASAR Kormákur - director of 101 Reykjavik - has come up trumps again with this absorbing generation-spanning thriller played out in the desolate landscapes of his native Iceland. Erlendur (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson) is a police detective who is charge

BALTASAR Kormákur - director of 101 Reykjavik - has come up trumps again with this absorbing generation-spanning thriller played out in the desolate landscapes of his native Iceland.

Erlendur (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson) is a police detective who is charged with investigating the murder of an old man named Holberg (Dorsteinn Gunnarsson) while also struggling to repair his relationship with his pregnant drug-addled young daughter (Águsta Eva Erlendsdóttir) who has returned from life on the streets to stay with her old man.

He refers to the murder as 'typically Icelandic - messy and pointless' and has little to go on apart from a picture of the gravestone of a young girl that died more than 30 years ago.

The detective sets about the case with dogged determination and it transpires that many years ago Holberg was accused a series of horrific crimes but was never convicted. The discovery leads the detective to a trail of bizarre forensic evidence and a startling revelation concerning the bloodline of the entire country.

Running parallel to all of this is the story of Orn (Atli Rafn Sigurðsson), a researcher working at a cutting-edge DNA mapping facility, who is desperately trying to save his daughter, albeit in a different way.

She is suffering from a brain tumour caused by a rare hereditary disorder and has just a short time to live. Eventually the stories intersect in a gripping tale which details the innate fragility of the individual in the face of the larger forces of society and illustrates how family ties and genetics determine much of our behaviour as human beings.

Starting off how it means to go on with a bleak sinister opening shot, the film is packed with charged images and even everyday actions such as eating have dark undertones - as in the scene where Erlendur orders a sheep's head, a local specialty, from a road side café.

Like a glacial Icelandic take on film noir, Jar City tells the story of a present already doomed by its past and is as gripping as it is terrifying as it drifts to its inevitable conclusion.

* Jar City opens in cinemas on Friday.

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