The film starts as much of these Nordic noir films do, a girl is missing. During a massive hunting expedition involving most of the town’s people in the small town of Norland in Sweden, an abandoned car is found with the missing girl’s blood in it and suddenly most of the town is suspect. The local police bring in Stockholm super cop Erik Backstrom (a weary Rolf Lassgard) to figure out who is to blame although the local force seems keen to pin it on local troublemaker Jari. Erik is reluctant to return to the town where the tragedy of the first film took place and isn’t keen to be reunited with his estranged nephew Peter. Whilst carrying out his investigation Erik learns that the missing girl is a lot more troubled than anyone thought and the suspect may be closer to him than he thinks meaning his nephew could be in serious danger.
I have avoided naming some characters and other actors in False Trail for a reason. There is a certain character actor popular in Hollywood over the last twenty years or so who is in this film. Typically Hollywood has used him as a shady, villainous scumbag and I can’t recall a single occasion he has played a good guy. However the makers of False Trail don’t seem to realise this because it makes most of the mystery and eventual outcome of the film predictable and without excitement. The minute said character actor appears on-screen it was very much a case of mystery solved but the film has two hours plus running time to fill out.
Much of the first hour is solid above average stuff. The locations are cold and bleak matching the haunted and troubling characters we meet where the weather and remoteness of the town has led to almost everyone indulging some kind of vice. The more that Backstrom uncovers the more resistance he comes up against from the locals and the police meaning that a certain amount of drama and conflict is inevitable and mostly its compelling stuff. The problem is that once we as an audience figure out who the killer is and Backstrom figures it out an hour later, there is still an hour left of the running time. As a result much of False Trail drags unnecessarily and it feels like it’s really padded out to get the maximum running time.
Much of Scandinavian crime is about the atmosphere and the mystery as well as the melodrama. It’s why The Killing has been such a big deal. The atmosphere is certainly present in False Trail and the melodrama comes from the various put upon victims of abuse or tragedy we encounter who are seemingly too beaten down to care about their fate. The film is made to look a lot like pretty much everything else that comes from the region with a much muted palette and the score by Johan Soderqvist is suitably brooding. Had this film been a little bit tighter when it came to the structure and writing then this could have stood alongside many of the other acclaimed Nordic noir’s despite the over familiarity of the premise. False Trail is probably one for Scandinavian crime thriller completists only.