“Something evil came with that storm
‘I think it was already here…'”
There must come a point when we run out of exceptional European dramas to import but thankfully, it doesn’t look to be happening anytime soon. This time, we’re looking to Iceland with Trapped, a 10 part crime mystery drama that simply reaffirms the extraordinary quality of Nordic Noir, whilst establishing its own niche therein. Created by Baltasar Kormákur (who directed last year’s Everest) and written by Sigurjón Kjartansson and Clive Bradley, it has reportedly received the highest budget by far ever invested into an Icelandic series and well, it shows.
Set in Seyðisfjörður, a remote town on the coast of eastern Iceland, Trapped begins with the discovery of a dismembered torso in the water at the same time that the weekly ferry from Denmark has arrived. Starting the investigation is Chief of Police Andri with colleagues Hinrika and Ásgeir but their job is complicated by the arrival of an almighty blizzard which prevents the Reykavik police from flying in to take over. It also means that no-one can leave, by land or by sea, and so whoever committed the crime can’t have left town…
In the way of such quality drama, Trapped unfolds as a multi-stranded epic about much much more as well – the ramifications of the 2008 financial crisis are still hitting all levels of Icelandic society hard and consequences of past actions remain impossible for anyone to escape. By the time murder, domestic violence, and people-trafficking are added to the equation, a hugely satisfying mystery is there for the taking, all overshadowed by the inescapable brute force of Mother Nature as snow and mountains conspire to keep everyone, well, trapped…
The considerable ensemble is led brilliantly by the delightfully bearish charms of Ólafur Darri Ólafsson’s Andri – a man with a past of course – struggling to deal with personal and professional mistakes as divorce from the superb Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir’s Agnes looms and decisions on former cases continue to stalk him. But as he peels back the layers of deception and secrecy, the darkness that emerges is truly haunting as in a small town, everyone knows everyone and the way this plays out is heartbreaking on so many levels, even a man as big as Ólafsson staggers under the weight of the truth and the difficulty of achieving true justice.
The way that the claustrophobia of Trapped affects the townsfolk is also extremely well done, even across the different directing styles of Kormákur, Baldvin Z, Börkur Sigthorsson and Óskar Thor Axelsson who shared duties. Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir and Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson bring amusing hints of Fargo to their local cops but the effects of challenging nature are rammed home – one of the series’ scariest moments simply involves children stuck in a snowstorm and as for old Guðmundur’s ideas to clear the snow, well you don’t get avalanches in Broadchurch now do you?!
With a gorgeous score from Jóhann Jóhannsson, Oscar-nominated for his elegant work on The Theory of Everything, that is deployed devastatingly at times, as in Andri’s most difficult conversation in the final episode, and an assured sense of the quality of its quietly effective storytelling, Trapped will take some beating as one of 2016’s televisual highlights.