14 September 2009

Ørnen (The Eagle): A Crime Odyssey

The good news for fans of quality crime drama is that SBS Television is rebroadcasting the Danish series Ørnen – “the Eagle”, a series about a special Danish investigatory unit established in Copenhagen to deal with transnational crime, in collaboration with similar units throughout Scandinavia.

The central figure, Hallgrim Ørnen Hallgrimsson (Jens Albinus), is an Icelander who is a detective inspector in the Danish Police Force. Around him the head of the unit (Ghita Norby) assembles a small team with a broad range of skills – a criminal prosecutor (Marina Bouras – Albinus’s partner in real life), another detective with whom Hallgrimsson has been through some rough times before (Janus Nabil Bakrawi), a crime scene investigator (Susan Olsen), a forensic accountant (Steen Stig Lommer) and a man who can do unspeakable things to/with IT systems (David Owe).

The cases are complex and absorbing, usually running to two or three episodes, and the seeds of the next case often begin to emerge during the current case. We get the whole panoply of organised international crime – drugs, people trafficking, paedophile rings, arms trafficking, and more. It is in many ways a psychological thriller, with Hallgrimsson trying to get inside the mind of his opponents, to figure out what makes them tick in order to get a sense of what they might do next. But to an important extent this is really a series about Hallgrimsson himself – the various factors in his own life that have gone to make him the person he is. Bits and pieces of this are revealed as the series goes on, not in too heavy handed a way, but enough to provide another thread pulling the story together.

The other members of the team have lives outside the office as well; none of them are two- dimensional and we get realistic reminders of the impacts that personal lives can have on behaviour and relationships in the workplace.

The script is excellent, the casting first class, the scenery stunning, and the cinematography and overall production values of a very high standard. The music is by Jakob Groth (who also wrote the music for the Danish series Unit One), with the haunting principal theme (Forgiveness) sung by Misen.

The series goes to air in its original Danish (and Norwegian and Swedish and Icelandic and German and English) with English sub-titles.

Unfortunately the first two episodes have been put to air (Wednesday nights at 10.00 pm); the second episode, which starts with a reasonable précis of the first, can be viewed on the SBS website by following the link here, but it won’t be there long.

Of course you can save yourself a lot of trouble by buying the DVDs here; the full set costs a mere $69.95, and it’s even better on the second and third run through.

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