‘The Team’

People have been getting very excited about this new euro drama, picked up by MHz Choice in America, Walter Presents of Channel 4 and out now on DVD in the UK. It’s designed very much with the new and surprisingly ravenous appetite for Euro drama in mind, bringing us together like happy clappy Eurovision. It’s supported by about 9 production companies and the ‘with thanks’ list is in big letters at the very start, and is very long. It’s an entire European industrial zone.

The Team of the title is the Europol network, bringing detectives together from Denmark, Belgium, Germany. The lead is Harald Bjorn, played by Lars Mikkelsen who is familiar to viewers as mayoral candidate Troels Hartmann in The Killing, and a sinister villain in a pretty poor Sherlock episode.

Right-wing losers the UK Independence Party don’t like it, which is reason enough for me to give it a try. Also, who knew UKIP had a culture spokesman? You would have thought they were very anti-culture, what with so many foreigners mixed up in it. Wasn’t culture  invented in ancient Greece? It’s enough to make a racist shudder.

Well The Team ought to suit those who distrust foreigners; when it comes to language skills it’s not exactly taxing. It’s entry-level subtitles with plenty of spoken English to break up all that reading. Everyone we come across, from brothels to board rooms, speaks an enviable variety of European languages.

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‘Midnight Sun’

If you trust my recommendations dear reader, stop reading right now and just watch this. If you need a little more convincing, read on. It’s only March and Midnight Sun has quite possibly staked the claim for most gripping episode 1 of a drama series this year. It’s an hour of tv that’s up there with The Killing and The Bridge. All the praise to Sky Atlantic for serving up this slice of stunning high-end noir. My only criticism is they’re portioning it out into weekly helpings, and I can’t bosh the lot in a weekend. Because I very definitely would.

This is a French-Swedish coproduction (yes, it has the Canal+ mark of quality) which follows Kahina Zadi (Leila Bekhti), a French police officer, as she heads to a small mining community in remote northern Sweden to lead an investigation into the spectacularly grisly murder of a French citizen. Her Swedish sidekick is local DA Anders Harnesk (Gustaf Hammarsten) and his rather more jaded boss Rutgar (Peter Stormare). Even with just a few minutes under the belt we can see that all of these characters are fully fledged with their own particular quirks and histories just beginning to be hinted at.

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‘Modus’

Modus is familiar even before it begins. It’s an eight part Swedish crime drama shown on BBC4 in the Saturday 9pm slot usually reserved for foreign langauge drama. The credits are familiar again – a nod to the skyline of The Bridge and the grizzly but striking black and white body parts of Trapped. It’s a new tradition that dramas especially must have stylish opening credits, extra points for slow motion and an air of chilly bleakness.

So this is Christmas, in a snow-covered pine forest. A delightful Christmas card scene but it’s cold, lonely and frightening. Euro horror merchants the Brothers Grimm taught us from an early age that monsters live in the forest and they were right. In this case, in a caravan.

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‘Dicte: Crime Reporter’ – On the Box

Another slice of Danish pastry from Walter Presents project on Channel 4. Strong female lead – check. Horrific crimes – check. Beautiful Scandinavian interiors that’ll make your house look dingy in comparison – check. You may think you’ve already got the measure of Dicte – Crime Reporter but this one is a bit left-field for Nordic Noir fans and subverts our expectations.

The Guardian suggest this series will be yet more “grey dramas about the exhausted life of a crime-solving woman” but this isn’t the case. Yes, the subject matter is very dark (people trafficking, illegal immigration, selling babies, dead babies, religious fanaticism, illegal organ trafficking – you name it, it’s all awful) but deftly handled with the themes of the crimes echoing through the lives of the lovable main characters. Sure, this show shares some of its make-up with The Killing, but also, surprisingly Sex and the City. And the theme tune is just so peppy and cheerful!

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‘Trapped’ – On the Box

A cold and bitter welcome to my new Saturday night drama obsession, in the coveted Euro drama slot on BBC4. This is Trapped, a murder mystery, police procedural type-drama: the first Icelandic drama on British tv – dark, cold and wintery. There’s been a gruesome murder, Andri the local cop with serious family problems has to save the day and a terrifying storm is setting in.

From the start the weather looks authentic – not a single flake of fake snow. I genuinely wondered if the producers had waited for a real storm to begin filming. But commenters on the internet who live quite a bit further north than me have pointed out it looks like summer with the characters running around with no hats on. A tell-tale giveaway, if you know what you’re looking for.

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‘Unforgotten’ – On the Box

Unforgotten is ITV’s new crime drama. From the off it’s very strange. For a start, it seems to be entirely well-lit. In some scenes there are zero spooky shadows and you can see everything. There’s even daylight! The investigating detectives are DCI Cassie Stuart and DS Sunny Khan. Not only do they seem well-adjusted, friendly and generally decent, but there’s zero sexual tension and no mention of alcohol or substance abuse. They might just be normal coppers doing a good job – an extremely rare sighting in drama or fiction of any kind. I especially like the way that episodes 1 and 2 haven’t shied away from how much methodical admin work goes in to a murder investigation. In fact, that’s the most mysterious thing about the show so far. Why is the Guv so keen to work a cold case full of dead ends? Nicola Walker‘s emotional stuff is a bit heavy-handed, but I’m sure it’ll all make sense when we find out about her brother/ sister/ husband/ mother who went missing when she was a child and left unresolved feelings that poor Jimmy’s case brings up.

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