The Girl From Oslo ~ Non-Spoiler Review

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Photo montage of The Girl From Oslo. Central image is the theatrical poster for the show

🇳🇴 🇮🇱 THE GIRL FROM OSLO 🇮🇱🇳🇴

The Girl From Oslo (2021) aka Bortført is a drama thriller on Netflix. 10 episodes of 33-36 min. Cert 15 U.K. Norwegian, Hebrew, Arabic, English with subtitles (dubbing available).

Premise:

“Pia and two Israelis are kidnapped by IS terrorists in the Sinai desert, and threatened with death if twelve IS prisoners are not released.” IMDb

Cast:

Anneke von der Lippe as Alex
Amos Tamam as Arik
Raida Adon as Layla
Andrea Berntzen as Pia
Shadi Mar’i as Yusuf
Daniel Litman as Nadav
Anders T. Andersen as Karl
Rotem Abuhab as Dana
Jameel Khoury as Bashir
Abhin Galeya as Abu Salim
Hisham Suliman as Ali
Shaniaz Hama Ali as Selma
Vered Feldman as Anat
Boaz Konforty as Grant

Crew:

Creator: Kyrre Holm Johannessen
Directors: Uri Barbash, Stian Kristiansen
Writers: Kyrre Holm Johannessen, Tal Miller, Stephen Uhlander, Ronit Weiss-Berkowitz
Composer: Chris Forsgren, Johannes Ringen
Cinematographer: Nitai Netzer
Costume Designers: Marianne Sembsmoen, Sarit Sharara

English-language poster for The Girl from Oslo

Notes:

Anneke von der Lippe (Alex) won an International Emmy Award in 2015 for her role in the Norwegian miniseries Eyewitness. She has also won both Bodil and Amanda awards. Back in 1998, she received an EFP Shooting Star. Andrea Berntzen starred in the film Utøya – July 22 for which she won an Amanda Award. Amos Tamam (Arik) is an award-winning Israeli actor. Anders T. Andersen can be seen in Atlantic Crossing, Rebecka Martinsson (season 2) and Fallet. Shaniaz (Selma) is in Young Wallander and The Bureau. André Sørum (Sidi) is a familiar face from Post Mortem: No Body Dies in Skarnes, Witch Hunt, Home Ground, 22 July and Occupied.

Shadi Mar’i (Yusuf) who is also in Our Boys played the deadly Walid El Abed in two seasons of Fauda. Raida Adon (Layla) may also be familiar to you from Fauda along with Jameel Khoury (Bashir) who is also in The Bureau and Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Hisham Suliman (Ali) and Boaz Konforty (Grant) who also to be seen in The Spy, Hostages and Prisoners of War.

Norwegian-language poster for The Girl from Oslo (Bortført)

Review:

A dual location TV series always has a certain appeal for me, and in this case, the unusual combinations of Norway and Israel seemed to offer something different. This combined with a couple of cast members in lead roles that I was already familiar with (Anneke von der Lippe and Andrea Berntzen) made this an appealing series to watch. But would it fulfil its promise?

Let me start with the pros, the things I liked and enjoyed while watching The Girl From Oslo. Firstly, I loved the direction and cinematography. The locations were great, especially those in the Middle East. The action sequences were a very strong plus point with great tension and visuals. They felt real, albeit not as edgy real as some shows I have watched (Fauda, Wolf, Gomorrah etc.) The music throughout was good and well placed and the sound editing was effective.

A scene from The Girl from Oslo with Amos Tamam as Arik (right)

Next would be the scenes with Arik in the main operations room. I enjoyed the to and fro of the dialogue and the dramatic irony that we know what Arik knows but no one else does. His scenes at home, conducted and stressed, were also well done. Generally, I liked the way his part was written and played; we can feel sympathy for him stuck between a rock and a hard place.

I appreciated the insight that it gave into life amongst the Palestinians with Israeli bombings, power cuts, medical restrictions etc. The various power plays that go on are interesting, most clearly between Hamas and IS (Daesh).

Daniel Litman (left) as Nadav, Shira Yosef (centre) as Noa, Andrea Berntzen (left) as Pia in a scene from The Girl From Oslo

I felt sympathy, as I was supposed to towards the hostages, Yusuf and his mother in their predicament. I thought it conveyed reasonably well why a young man might be attracted to and be groomed by IS. The conversations between members of Hamas were revealing and interesting. The IS men themselves were written in quite a shallow way. The conversation back in Norway between Karl and Abu Salim could have been written with more revealing and complex dialogue.

Abhin Galeya as Abu Salim (left) with Anders T. Andersen as Karl (right) in a scene from The Girl From Oslo

The cons are, unfortunately, considerable. The way that Alex, a supposed experienced member of an international negotiations team (albeit years before, and maybe her mind was on other things then…) was written really hampered how we could feel sympathy for both her and even more unfortunately her daughter. I found her character to be very much one-note with no real development.

Anneke von der Lippe as Alex (right) and Amos Tamam as Arik (left) in a scene from The Girl From Oslo

Because Alex spends so much time in a weepy state from start to finish, causing lots of grief (literally) for those she comes into contact with, it stops us from empathising with her plight. She is prepared to blackmail Arik and potentially destroy his family and she seems to have zero people skills or real empathy. Some of her gormless actions belie her supposed diplomatic experience (her “negotiations” with Hamas are painful to watch). As for her poor husband finding out about the big secret after almost everyone else, including Hamas, well…

Anneke von der Lippe as Alex (right) with Raida Adon as Layla (left) in a scene from The Girl From Oslo

Some parts of The Girl From Oslo require an enormous suspension of disbelief. One of the most glaring was parents being allowed into an active operations room “because they asked and I couldn’t say no.” Really? Really? There are others such as Israeli intelligence believing Alex’s story about hiring the rescue team. Just. Like. That.

Shadi Mar’i as Yusuf (front right) and Andrea Berntzen as Pia (front left) in a scene from The Girl From Oslo

Other parts telegraphed how they are going to end far too clearly.

In truth, by halfway through the series (if that) I strongly disliked her. My sympathies were far more for Arik, the other hostages and their parents and Yusuf’s mother. This can only be seen as a failure in writing. I fully get the idea that she is a mother who is prepared to burn the world down to save her daughter but sadly she is not a character I cared a jot about. Especially as so much seemed to revolve around her and no one else.

The final reunion with parents and child was curiously unmoving as a viewer, perhaps because by that stage I found the idea of Pia returning home with this awful woman quite concerning. The meeting with her biological father was, by way of contrast, far more affecting; I would have liked this to have lasted longer.

The episodes are not long but at times I did find myself checking how much was left while watching. This is an issue as I very rarely do this while watching a TV show, even one with far FAR longer episodes.

My general feeling after watching The Girl From Oslo was one of disappointment and that it had unfulfilled potential. I would be prepared to watch another season with Arik though since he is a tad compromised (thanks Alex!) and he is an interesting character with whom I could sympathise.

Trailer (none available aside from this dubbed version):

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