Saboteurs (The) AKA Kampen om tungtvannet (TV) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Arrow Films
Review written by and copyright: Matthew Crossman (9th August 2015).
The Show

Seventy years have passed since the end of World War II but there is still an insatiable appetite for films and television programmes depicting the events and stories of that war. In the past these have tended to focus on daring acts of heroism of a small band of plucky fighters, usually hideously outnumbered, and beating the Nazis through sheer will and endeavour (Where Eagles Dare being one such example.) Recently, however, filmmakers have taken to depicting the stories that took place in the background of the war, the covert missions that have only recently come to light due to The Freedom of Information Act making the historical facts available to all. ‘The Saboteurs’ is one such story. Told over six episodes in a joint Norwegian/German/British production it tells the story of the Germans desire to built a nuclear reactor and consequently a nuclear bomb. To this end they enlist the help of the best German scientists available, whose number includes Professor Heisenberg (Christoph Bach). In order to built and run the nuclear reactor the Germans need a substance called ‘heavy water’. The only plant in Europe that is capable of producing such substance is a hydroelectric plant in Norway. The foremost professor of heavy water in Norway, Leif Tronstad (Espen Klouman Hoiner), soon realises what this could mean to the war in Europe and flees to Stockholm where he joins up with the British Army, and most notably, Captain Julie Smith. From here on in it’s a race for the British and Norwegians to join forces and devise a plan to destroy the hydroelectric plant in Norway before the German forces can succeed in their plan to build a nuclear bomb.

The Saboteurs first aired on Norwegian television earlier this year and proved to a huge success and it’s easy to see why. The piece feels very authentic with actors speaking in their native languages and subtitles being provided for the dialogue not in English. The attention to detail is quite superb with every detail of the period being replicated to a great degree. The first two episodes (each episode runs for approximately 45 minutes) are quite slow but this is whilst all the characters are introduced and the moved into position as if they were pieces on a chessboard. Whilst the viewer will naturally root for the allied forces in their mission the Director (Per-Olav Sorenson) takes the time to ensure that the Germans of the piece are portrayed, for the most part, as human beings with families and loved ones giving the programme real gravitas and allowing the moral ambiguities of war to be examined from both sides of the conflict. Too often in war dramas the atrocities of war are portrayed by one set of people, more often the German forces, whilst Allied atrocities are ignored. Not so in this case. It’s a classy production from start to finish and despite the viewer knowing what the eventual outcome will be we care so much for all the characters that it is their stories that we care about and not the obvious outcome of the mission. Highly recommended.

Video

Presented in 1.78:1 1080/50i, the picture is as clean and crisp as could possibly be. Whilst the colours of the show are naturally muted (we are talking about 1940, after all) the sharpness is excellent. From the cobbled streets of Germany to the snowy vistas of Norway the picture quality never fails to shine with the blacks being very deep and the whites of the snow almost dazzling. The picture quality of the disc is top notch.

Audio

Norwegian/English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The soundtrack is mostly dialogue driven but on the occasions that it is asked to do more it does not fail. The rear speakers offer a subtle addition and the sub woofer, when employed, adds a great depth to the soundtrack. Unfortunately there are no subtitles available. When languages other than English are used there are English subtitles (in a pleasing, smooth white font) but for those who are hard of hearing there are no specific subtitles available for their use.

Extras

There are no extras available. The disc does have three start up trailers and these are for the Danish production ‘1864’ (1.35), the German show ‘Generation War’ (1.39) and ‘Prisoners of War’ Season 2 which is an Israel production (1.08).

Overall

A very classy, intriguing and exciting television mini series with superb acting from all of those involved. The running time of 270 minutes allows the story to unfold at a good pace with many intricacies of the plot being allowed to develop properly without being rushed. With the actors speaking the languages of their characters it allows the show to feel authentic as does the production values and set designs which are faithfully reproduced of the era. The science of the story is dealt with in a very viewer friendly way and allows the details of the plot to be extrapolated without the need to ‘dumb down’. A highly enjoyable TV series which treats the subject matter with the respect it deserves. Highly recommended.

The Show: A+ Video: A Audio: A Extras: E Overall: A

 


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