Toronto 2015: Kormakur's TRAPPED Ushers Iceland Into The Nordic Noir Wave
A passenger ferry pulls up the local fjord just in advance of a major winter storm, the weather front so severe that it risks shutting down the entire region. But the snows don't hit before local fisherman pull a mutilated body from the water, the corpse nothing more than a torso so clearly fresh into the water that suspicion naturally falls on the freshly arrived ferry as the most likely source for the corpse. And so the passengers become trapped on the boat as the police begin their investigation with the townsfolk trapped in the town with storms shutting down all roads while also cutting the town off much needed investigative reinforcements. And so this tiny town police force - only three strong - are forced to combat the elements and the explosive emotions of both town and traveler to try and unravel a case with international implications.
While it is somewhat difficult to make a judgement on a series after only a single episode it is clear that creator and director Baltasar Kormakur is aiming to enter the so-called Nordic Noir wave of crime series - The Killing and The Bridge being the prime examples of the movement - with his home grown effort Trapped. And Kormakur manages to both play enough to the strengths of the burgeoning subgenre to draw existing fans while also bringing enough of his own stamp to things to keep things fresh.
When compared to the slick production values of The Killing and The Bridge, Trapped takes a deliberately more raw approach, embracing a more verite approach that uses the natural beauty and raw hostility of the local environment to great effect. Kormakur has settled on an absolutely fabulous premise for the show and populates his show with a rich and varied cast of characters. With TIFF showing only the first episode as part of their Primetime program we only get an introduction to most of the characters and themes that will drive the affair but it's abundantly clear that he has no shortage of strong material to work with along with a premise that will easily allow him to ratchet the tension up considerably.
There are however some hiccups both in cast and plotting in the early going. The Icelandic cast - led by Kormakur regular Ólafur Darri Ólafsson - are universally strong but things get a little bit wobbly from time to time with some of the internationals. The Danish ferry captain, in particular, flies his "I'M A VILLAIN, DAMMIT" flag overly strong from the outset and there are a couple of story points that, while relatively minor, stand out as odd. Who, for example, told a bunch of school children in the middle of their school day, that there is a killer on the loose in their town leaving dismembered corpses behind? Because they all know, and know long before the police actually show up at the school. Did a teacher somehow hear and tell them? And, if so, why has someone not punched the adult who did such a stupid thing in the face?
While not a perfect premiere the good far, far, far outweighs the bad in Trapped with the premiere leaving the promise of great things to come. Virtually certain of being a major local hit this should also play very strongly within the international TV market in its original language while almost certainly drawing attention for international remake. An Alaskan or Newfoundland set version seems a matter of when, not if. Seek out the original first if you can.