Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Yet more Scandinavian drama - or is it? 100 Code

It's set in Sweden, a lot of it is in Swedish, and it co-stars Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist, hero of the original and by far the superior Swedish Millennium Trilogy.  But the story originates in the 2014 novel Merrick by the Northern Irish writer Ken Bruen, and Nyqvist's co-star is the German-born British actor Dominic Monaghan, best known as one of those bloody Hobbits in the tedious Lord of the Rings blot on the cinematic landscape, the TV series Lost, and - it goes without saying - Hetty Wainwright Investigates.  To mix things up a little further, here Monaghan plays an American cop, possibly from New York but I'm not entirely clear on that.

It's a bit of a Euro-mongrel then, 100 Code, but unlike other unfortunate mash-ups such as, say, Fortitude, the series works.  The acting is well above average (I especially like the young woman who plays Nyqvist's headstrong daughter) and the photography is great, but really it's down to the plot.  Monaghan's character Conley is in Stockholm because he is tracking a serial killer who seems to have moved from the US to Sweden.  Halfway through the series, which is roughly where we are now, it turns out that we have a whole bunch of serial killers being encouraged and equipped by someone they only know via the Internet.  There is a suggestion that he or she, the controller, is a voyeur who gets his/her kicks by watching the murders.

Back to Ken Bruen - he's a strange case.  He is well published and critically well-received, yet his books are only apparently taken up by foreign TV companies.  His Jack Taylor series, which I have reviewed on this blog heretofore, was essentially a German production, albeit featuring an entirely British and Irish cast.  Why haven't the mainstream British channels taken a punt, I wonder? The audience exists - I gather Series 2 of 100 Code has been confirmed.

Monday, February 15, 2016

More Scandinavian drama on UK television - Occupied

Based on an idea by Jo Nesbo - and can't you just tell.  Norway declares itself a green-fuel state.  The EU doesn't like it.  Russia absolutely hates the idea.  So Russia takes over Norway's North Sea platforms with EU backing.  That's what I call High Concept!

It's a soft occupation.  No tanks, no troops in the street.  Just the Russian ambassador - a superbly icy Ingeborga Dapkunaite - making things abundantly clear to the idealistic Prime Minister (Henrik Mestad). And in the unwanted role of go-between, the security officer Djupvik (Eldar Skar) who found the PM after the Russians briefly abducted him while the rigs were commandeered, and then saved the ambassador from an assassination attempt.

The ten-episode series is said to have been Norway's most expensive to date.  A lot of the cash is to be seen on screen.  You can really tell that the crew have had that little extra time to get the shots just right.  The cast, all unknown to me, are excellent, especially Skar, who does an exemplary job as the protection man forced to become an international diplomat, whilst simultaneously solving every crime that might upset the Russians and delay their departure.

For those who don't have Sky, Occupied is a must-get box set.