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Greyzone / Gråzon

A definite progression from the Scandinavian crime series that are starting to become a little tired, Greyzone is a hostage thriller that attempts to include an intelligent discussion on drone use in the Middle East. Despite its intriguing message, the series does struggle to coherently say what it wants to say, and instead we get a typical hostage series.

The series follows the events leading up to a planned terrorist attack in Scandinavia. Our protagonist is Victoria (played by Birgitte Hjort Sørensen), who is a drone engineer about to release a new, high-tech drone. However, shortly after the announcement she is taken hostage by a group who want to use the components from her company in their terror attack. Victoria is forced to steal from her company in order to please her captor (played by Ardalan Esmaili), and when the police realise what is happening, they force Victoria to become a double agent. As the captor and Victoria work together, their positions began to shift, and the series focuses around the question of whether or not the attack can be averted.

Birgitte Hjort Sørensen is undoubtedly a great actor, and her growing international profile is proof of that. Her talent is put on display in Greyzone; nowhere else in the series do we see such fear, tension and unease than we do in the way she plays Victoria. Ardalan Esmaili also does an excellent job as the captor, showing that his character is not exactly doing this out of his own will (though I hope Esmaili will be able to step out of immigrant roles, like he played in The Charmer). The production quality is also remarkably high, and it rivals that of U.S. television dramas when it comes to how they incorportated special effects and a high producation value.

While the series looks rather impressive on the surface, looking into the actual storyline is where holes begin to form. While the plot doesn’t fall too far into the category of being predictable, I found some of the major elements, such as the police coming in to work with Victoria, rather sloppily put together. The whole subplot with the police is hard to follow and rather lazy compared to the main storyline, and after watching the first six episodes it was still hard to figure out why they were so important. The series does rely heavily on Victoria’s young son in order to create drama and tension, and it is ineffective and distracting.

Mostly, I struggled with the overall message the series was attempting to convey. The Middle Eastern hostage-takers and the drones certainly try to convey the message that drone usage in war rarely ends well, but I found it difficult to comprehend why they were taking the drones. Maybe that becomes clearer in the last episodes.  But the fact that Victoria is captured also muddles the message; she was never creating the drones for malicious intent, and if they were so set on infiltrating her company, why not choose someone a little less noticeable?

Even though Greyzone does play it quite safe in how it conveys its overall message, and much of the plot feels quite lazy, it does have moments of being an actual thriller. The scenes involving Sørensen and Esmaili make up for the series’ faults, and it will leave you wanting a little more.

Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia. Originally from Australia, she is now based in Bergen, Norway, and attends major Nordic film festivals to conduct interviews and review new films.