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March 2016

Occupied

cast: Henrik Mestad, Ane Dahl Torp, Eldar Skar, Selome Emnetu, and Ingeborga Dapkunaite

creators: Karianne Lund, Jo Nesbo, and Erik Skjoldbjaerg

450 minutes (15) 2015
widescreen ratio 16:9
Dazzler blu-ray region B

RATING: 6/10
review by Ian Shutter

Occupied

Reportedly the most expensive media production in Norway's history, Occupied (aka: Okkupert) is a TV series of ten episodes, each one taking place in a narrative of consecutive months. It's shot mostly in Norwegian, but with some English dialogue.

At a new thorium power station, designed to replace oil as a viable alternative to the near future's climate-change problems and solve the global energy crisis, the Green Party's Prime Minister Jesper Berg (Henrik Mestad) is briefly kidnapped to warn him of the European Union's backing for a Russian-led invasion of his nation by countries unwilling to shake off their dependency on fossil fuels. Soon, PM Berg surrenders his executive power to spare the Norwegian people the certainty of death and bloodshed if their armed forces provoke a conflict over national security and self-defence issues.

Police bodyguard Djupvik (Eldar Skar, in his first starring role) heroically chases the hijacked helicopter to save Berg, and his promotion to investigator means a rapid rise so he becomes involved in high-level situations, like a Scandinavian Jack Bauer, that include assassination plots and an inevitable Norwegian resistance conspiracy. Sadly, Occupied lacks the tremendous pace or energy of 24, trying for brooding atmosphere and slow-burning tensions instead of action set-pieces with a more leisurely story-arc that runs for nine months.

As has often been observed, international law only exists in law books. The basic idea here is a genre notion, but Occupied is not particularly science fictional although it's a futuristic, speculative drama trading upon Norge fears of Putin's aggression, while the TV show itself prompted outrage in Moscow.

There's a doomed reporter who is desperate for scandal and notoriety as he struggles to uncover state secrets of euphemistic 'European disaster relief' efforts by Russians, and Occupied explores many of the fourth estate's ethical concerns ("The Russians have eliminated journalists before") previously charted by investigative news-hounds in Scandi-noir movies like the successful trilogy that started with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Unfortunately, this is drama that lapses into sentimental soap opera routines of domestic strife, family problems, and health worries, so it rarely misses an opportunity for hand-wringing with optional hankies.

Even when the plot diversions are mere sundry crimes, it affects the main characters, with a grim inevitably, as if for the sake of giving them all something else to do during the unfolding situation's bigger picture of realpolitik - in which, of course, they are so often otherwise technically or actually quite powerless. As the solemn Berg's earnest leadership falters, a coup seems likely, and challenges to his comprised authority are certain when the social contract is so obviously broken, with a progressive democracy of environmentalism crushed between train-wreck collision and a collusion of greedy international capitalism and myopic Euro-nationalism.

An extradition order for a Chechen terrorist, and other destablising actions, continue and escalate a war of nerves between Berg and his far mightier opponents, led by Russian ambassador Sidorva (winningly portrayed by Ingeborga Dapkunaite, who played Lecter's mother in that prequel movie Hannibal Rising). Dim-witted 'Free Norway' terrorists claim to believe that car bombs create hope not fear.

Noisy street protests in August become a violent riot in September as, for both major and minor characters in this impending tragedy, questions of ultimate loyalty lead official gamblers to further personal confrontations when a diplomatic solution looks impossible without American participation. With another hostage crisis looming for the beleaguered Berg, events lurch towards the chilly December climax in a two-part finale. So, the only vital question remaining is: "are you ready to fight for your country?"



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