2013’s The Tunnel was a surprisingly good Anglo-French spin on The Bridge, the memorable Danish/Swedish co-production which has earned cult status with fans of Scandi-noir.
While the first series clung to the plot of the original like its life depended on it, The Tunnel: Sabotage (Acorn Media) comes armed with a brand new storyline. Crucially, the sequel sees the mismatched detective pairing of Karl Roebuck (Stephen Dillane, Game of Thrones) and Elise Wassermann (Clemence Poesy, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) reunited for another case, and their chemistry once again gives the show its heartbeat. The duo are thrust together to investigate the case of a French couple who are abducted from the Eurotunnel by a masked squad, leaving behind their traumatised young daughter. The plot thickens, however, when a plane carrying British and French passengers crashes in the Channel, killing everyone on board.
The first series may have received a lukewarm response from critics, but world-weary Karl and socially awkward Elise are arguably one of the most watchable detective duos on British TV at the moment. Indeed, it is to Poesy’s enormous credit that she manages to offer a genuinely impressive interpretation of the original show’s Saga Noren character (as played by Sofia Helin), adding a welcome layer of vulnerability to the mix.
One of the key differences between this series and its predecessor is the fact that the identities of the culprits are revealed surprisingly early on. This doesn’t diminish the thrills and spills however, as the labyrinthine conspiracy at the heart of the plot takes a while to unspool, and leads the investigators into surprisingly freaky territory. With effective supporting turns from TV mainstays such as Con O’Neill (as a shadowy MI5 operative), Emilia Fox (as a chain-smoking people-trafficker) and William Ash (as Roebuck’s cheeky right-hand man), the show brings a lot to the table – most of it very good!
The Tunnel: Sabotage is a slick, gripping thriller that exceeded my modest expectations. Compulsive viewing for fans of cop-shows – especially if you like your crime dramas to have a geopolitical slant. I look forward to a third outing.
In Victoria (Curzon Artificial Eye), the title character (played by Laia Costa) is a young woman from Madrid, who meets four local guys outside a Berlin nightclub. Charismatic Sonne (Frederick Lau) and his friends offer to show her a good time, and introduce her to the ‘real’ Berlin. As Victoria’s flirtation with Sonne escalates, she finds herself suckered into the boys’ dangerous dealings with ex-convict Andi (Andre Hennicke), to whom Sonne’s buddy Boxer owes a prison-related debt. Pressed into service as a driver for the posse, what starts out as a good time, quickly spirals out of control, and an increasingly desperate Sonne and Victoria find themselves fleeing from cops and criminals alike as the deal goes boss-eyed.
Shot in one take, Sebastian Schipper’s movie won the 2015 Berlin Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution for Cinematography. It is an undeniably impressive feat, but this doesn’t always translate into pure entertainment. Shot in real-time, and improvised from a skeleton script, the action understandably ebbs and flows, and the film’s unique selling point is also its Achilles heel. Suffice to say, the film’s energy-sapping 138-minute run-time is an unfortunate by-product of Schipper’s ambitious approach. During the more adrenalized sequences the film has a real electric charge, but during the low-octane moments it feels weirdly aimless. On balance though, the grimly authentic high-points outweigh the sluggish lows, and Victoria definitely warrants further investigation.
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In 600 Miles (Soda) Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs) stars as federal agent Hank Harris, who is working the US-Mexico border, trawling gun shows and tracking young gun-runner Arnulfo Rubio (Kristyan Ferrer, previously seen as Smiley in the excellent Sin Nombre). Following a botched attempt at an apprehension by Harris, Rubio makes the ill-judged decision to kidnap his pursuer and smuggle him into Mexico, intending to hand him to his uncle’s cartel as a trophy. However, the youngster’s naivety soon sees both of their lives threatened, and they realise that the only way out of the mess is to trust one another.
After an enigmatic, engaging opening third, 600 Miles lapses into surprisingly dreary territory, and the initial narrative randomness gives way to something more clear-cut and far less interesting. Roth – who also claims an executive producer credit – does his best with the material that he has been given, but the film frequently falls flat, and doesn’t spark into life again until it approaches its blood-splattered climax. The clumsy pacing is unfortunate, as when the film is good, it is really good. Writer-director Gabriel Ripstein has admitted that he wanted to focus on the human drama and avoid telling a more expansive, cartel-focused story, and while admirable, this understated approach sometimes feels like a missed opportunity. An interesting curio rather than a fully-fledged triumph.