King’s Bay is a Norwegian theatrical response to the current Nordic Noir climate: politics, conspiracy, corruption; it has it all.

King’s Bay is a fictional thriller based on some occurring coincidences that happened around the same time as the Cold War in the 1960’s. The accident in the coal mine in King’s Bay in Spitsbergen is in the film alleged to be sabotage, made by the Russians as a Cold War warning towards Norway having good relations with the USA. A journalist from the Tromsø-based newspaper Nordlys, Harriet, receives an anonymous package containing a tape. On the tape, Russians speak, warning about the attack a year before it happened. Harriet begins to dig into the matter, and the closer she gets to the truth the clearer it becomes that strong political forces are at work.

The film digs into the mystery, creating conspiracy and wild accusations. But King’s Bay is lacking in suspense. The fault seems to be found in the writing, with loose dialogue, one-dimensional characters and rather linear investigating. For example, the opening ten minutes of the film establishes Harriet as a drunk who is slipping from her position at the newspaper, but as soon as she receives the mysterious tape everyone seems to forget this important character aspect. 

Where King’s Bay lacks in suspense, it makes up for in the excellent use of Tromsø as a setting. The Arctic city shows its true colours as a major player for gritty Scandinavian crime, not seen since Erik Skjoldbjærg’s 1997 crime thriller Insomnia. As Harriet discusses the case, the northern lights can be seen dancing behind her. Furthermore, most of the actors are from the far-north of Norway, giving the film a necessary drive and excitement against Harriet’s rather dull and uninspiring investigation. Why it didn’t open the Tromsø International Film Festival in January, I’ll never know.

Overall, King’s Bay is intriguing and sets itself up for a good story. It’s entertaining and will likely intrigue the Nordic Noir crowd. Let’s just hope it gets some much-needed attention.

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CategoriesIssue 19 Reviews
Emma Vestrheim

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.