Note: this is a review of the first two episodes, screened at the Goteborg Film Festival. 

Nordic Noir heads to Iceland in this new series from Icelandic creator, director, producer, actor and the all-around amazing Baltasar Kormakur, who in the past has brought us Everest, Contraband and Jar CityTrapped is his newest creation, and in this ten-part series we follow a grisly crime set against the raw hostility of the Icelandic landscape.

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  • Domestic Premiere: 27th December 2015
  • International Premieres:
    • France: 8th February 2016
    • UK: 13th February 2016

Anticipation

Nordic Noir + Iceland = amazing!

Viewing

Flawed script but strong characters and setting, Trapped is both entertaining and gripping. 

Recommendation

Another fine crime drama from the Nordic region – sure to do well abroad. 

 

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Our protagonist is police chief Andri, whose life is falling apart around him in a rather spectacular fashion: he still wears his wedding ring even though his ex-wife is about to visit with him and their children along with her new boyfriend. And years before the period in which the story takes place, his sister was killed in a fire (the sequence which opens the film). His parents haven’t quite recovered, and photos and memories of her echo throughout the house. And in spectacular Nordic Noir fashion, a gruesome crime comes to town and upsets his life even further.

A passenger ferry from Denmark pulls up at the local fjord just ahead of a major winter storm (I sat next to someone from the region and she said it was always like that!), the weather so severe that it eventually shuts down the only road out of town. The snows don’t hit before local fisherman pull a mutilated body from the water, the corpse being nothing more than a torso so fresh that suspicion naturally falls on the ferry. The passengers become trapped on the boat as Andri and his team of two begin their investigation, with the townsfolk also becoming trapped as the road shuts down. So, at least for the first two episodes, the premise is that this small community are trapped with a crazed killer. Andri and his team are forced to combat the elements (and shaky personal lives) and the explosive emotions of both town and traveller to try and unravel a case with international implications.

Straight off it is clear that this is Iceland’s answer to The Killing and The Bridge, though it is considerably less political – instead focusing on the crime elements. Where Trapped stands out is through its raw approach that uses the natural beauty and raw hostility of the environment to great effect. Kormakur knows what us international folk love about Iceland, and he exploits it in his series to great effect.

That said, Trapped does have some flaws and opened to mixed reviews in Iceland. The Icelandic cast are very strong, but it seems to fall short with the international cast. For example, the Danish ferry captain (who we recognise as the dad from season one of The Killing) is basically repeating “I’m the villain, I’m rebelling against you, ha ha” so much that it seems like bad writing. Bad writing is really what makes up most of the flaws, and there are several odd story points. For example, all the kids at the school seem to know about the crime before they are told by the police – so is there a nosey teacher or are the kids all in on it? Jokes aside, it doesn’t make sense within the overall story, though someone could argue that word spreads quick in a small town. Lastly, there are so many characters and families that for the first episode it seems rather confusing. With Nordic dramas we are generally introduced to a large ensemble of characters before their stories start making sense, so here’s hoping it evens out in the later episodes.

Trapped was named the most expensive series produced in Iceland, estimating an overall cost exceeding 6.5 million euros. When Denmark released their most expensive series 1864 it got a lot of criticism and wasn’t particularly liked. Trapped is bound to do very well overseas as it appeals to what international audiences love most – noir, crime, strong characters and cold wintery shots. Overall, it was an entertaining series and gripping drama, and luckily for some of us it premieres in the UK this Saturday. It will be interesting to see if it is as loved by the Brits as other series have been.

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