Boundless, Ole Christian Madsen
Boundless [The Hanging Girl]

Department Q Film ‘Boundless’ Unravels

Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Department Q crime thriller The Hanging Girl unravels in its 2024 film adaptation by Ole Christian Madsen, Boundless.

Ole Christian Madsen
Trust Nordisk
1 February 2024 (US)

Ole Christian Madsen’s Boundless signifies the sixth film adaptation of the Department Q book series, written by one of the gurus of contemporary Danish crime fiction, Jussi Adler-Olsen. The Danish director picks up the mantle from Martin Zandvliet, director of film number 5, The Marco Effect (2021), and summons a modified cast as Ashfin Firouzi succeeds Zaki Youssef in the critical role of Assad. At the helm once again is the veteran actor Ulrich Thomsen in his second time as the protagonist, Carl Mørck. 

Madsen’s film version of Boundless is based on the sixth installment in the ten-part saga, published under the English title The Hanging Girl. Those familiar with Adler-Olsen stories know this is perhaps the weakest chapter in the series for several reasons. The plot is a tad incoherent and bears numerous witless holes, while the characters seem out of their depth without any tangible, credible rationale. Even the humorous bits that make the series one of the top-bestselling novels in Nordic crime fiction seem hollow and stiff.   

The film starts with a literal bang as Rose travels to the island of Bornholm to attend the retirement ceremony of one of Carl’s oldest colleagues, Christian Habersaat (Peter Mygan). However, things take a nasty turn when the honoree kills himself in front of his shocked colleagues. We soon learn that Haberstaat had been haunted for the last years of his life by an unsolved cold case that involved the death of a young girl who was found hanging from a tree on the side of the road.

The investigating Department Q team (Carl, Assad, and Rose), realizes that the girl’s death must be linked to a sun-worshipping cult. There have been several girls missing from the cult’s premises during the last few years, and there are strong indications that something is off-kilter about them.

All three protagonists are in turmoil, each for their reasons, as with Rose, played with an unfamiliar spin by Sofie Torp. The “unfamiliar spin” concerns a more radical interpretation of the character who, in the film, leans more towards an action hero than the quirky detective we met in the novel series. The female of the closed-knit group must relive and grapple with traumatic memories from her childhood and face demons she thought long buried. Torp would have delivered the most notable performance in the film if it hadn’t been for the gravitas and dexterity of Ulrich Thomsen. He brings a distinctive fierceness to the character of Carl, which is manifested predominantly during the interrogation scenes.

Boundless‘ plot unfolds at a rather slow tempo, and what happens is so easy to guess beforehand, even for those who haven’t read the book. The investigation by Department Q’s keepers of the lost causes is of minuscule significance; it is almost inconsequential, subtracting pivotal narrative points from the story as a whole. There is no sign of Assad’s bizarre camel jokes from the book, e.g., “If you want to know what the camel stole from your kitchen yesterday, then you shouldn’t slit open its stomach. You should stare into its arsehole.” Firouz, who incarnates Carl’s trusted sidekick, fails to nail Assad’s essence as described in the novels, and there are many instances in which we miss the measured performances by Fares Fares as Assad in the first four films.

Rose is portrayed more in the likes of Stieg Larsson’s punk-hacker heroine Lisbeth Salander in Niels Arden Oplev’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009). The scene in Boundless where she almost extirpates a man’s genitals is too much, particularly for those who are fond of Adler-Olsen’s books. There are also gruesome descriptions in the books, but this scene is so over-the-top and implausible that it does not advance the film’s narrative.

Boundless and Christoffer Boe’s 2018 feature Journal 64 are the weakest installments in this film franchise that began in 2013 with the release of Mikkel Nørgaard’s The Keeper of Lost Causes. The Department Q films follow the chronological order of the books, so the next in line will be an adaptation of book #7, The Scarred Woman. Fans of Nordic thrillers will not be excited by this latest outing by Ole Christian Madsen, but The Scarred Woman is one of the most thrilling of Madsen’s installments of the Department Q series. We’ll be looking forward to that.

RATING 5 / 10