Arctic Circle: A Non-Spoiler Review

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Photo montage of scenes from Arctic Circle. Central image is the poster for the show.

🇫🇮 🇩🇪 ARCTIC CIRCLE 🇩🇪 🇫🇮

Arctic Circle season 1 (2018) is a Finnish-German co-production TV series available on All4 Walter Presents U.K., Topic and Roku USA, Topic Canada, Stan Australia. 10 x approx 45-minute episodes. Crime/drama/thriller. Rated Guidance U.K. In Finnish, German, Russian and English with embedded English subtitles.

Premise:

“Arctic Circle (aka Ivalo) is set in the unforgiving polar region, amidst the icy landscapes of Finnish Lapland. In season 1 Nina Kautsalo, a Finnish police officer, finds a dying prostitute in an old cabin in the wilderness, the ensuing criminal investigation takes a surprise twist when a deadly virus is discovered in her blood. Nina suddenly finds herself in the middle of an exceedingly unusual criminal investigation…” IMDb

Cast:

There are several familiar faces in this production including Pihla Viitala (Deadwind) as Marita Kautsalo, Mikko Leppilampi (Bordertown) as Esko Kangasniemi, Kari Ketonen (Bordertown) as Kaakko Stenius, Inka Kallén (All the Sins) as Sari Nikander, Maximilian Brückner (Oktoberfest: Beer & Blood) as Thomas Lorenz, Clemens Schick (Das Boot) as Marcus Eiben, Joi Johannsson (Sisterhood, Fortitude, Rig 45) as Jens Mathiesen, Ari Virman (All the Sins) as Aaro Raunola and Anu Sinisalo (Bordertown: The Mural Murders, Bordertown, Beck) as Nurse Ella.
Plus:
Lina Kustonen as Nina Kautsalo
Venla Ronkainen as Venla Kautsalo

Crew:


Creator: Petja Peltomaa, Olli Haikka, Joona Tena
Writer: Petja Peltomaa, Joona Tena, Jón Atli Jónasson, Oli Tola
Director: Hannu Salonen
Composer: Vladislav Delay
Cinematographer: Mikael Gustafsson
Editor: Iikka Hesse, Jyrki Levä

Notes:

Arctic Circle is the first co-production between Finland’s Yellow Film & TV and Germany’s Bavaria Film.

Location:


Ivalo, Finland

Finnish poster for Arctic Circle

Review:

The premise of Arctic Circle immediately appealed because it was not going to be a formulaic crime Nordic noir and it fulfilled its promise of that. Although it originally aired back in 2018 it now seems prescient.

I really liked that this story is different and it avoids at least some of the well-worn tropes. I thought the acting was great throughout with Lina Kustonen as Nina Kautsalo and most especially Maximilian Brückner impressing greatly.

The director Hannu Salonen has such a terrific eye and one of the outstanding aspects of this series was, for me, his direction and the quality of the cinematography. One thing this series has is a very real sense of place… and cold… you can really “feel” the cold through the visuals. The landscape is often lingered upon and this is all for the better. It is frequently stunning! These visuals combined with the ambient sounds and the music work incredibly well.

Less satisfying in places was the storyline which does have quite a few holes and which meandered a bit and went off track for a couple of episodes. I’m also not a great fan of characters doing really stupid things just to move the story forwards. At least, I don’t mind if what they do is stupid so long as it works within the parameters already established. One query would be why not kill someone if you are leaving them tied up in a place you have set fire to? That comes over as a pure plot device to let the person escape or be rescued.

What was impressive was that it was pretty clear what each character’s motivations were. We also got backstory without being treated as if we needed it to be spelt out for us. Added to this was the very valid and important aspect of how some people (principally but not solely in this case foreign women) are disregarded

Overall I very much enjoyed Arctic Circle. It has high production values, is well-acted, has some engaging characters (yes, Thomas), its visuals are frequently stunning and the atmosphere created has depth.

I was very keen to see the short second season until I discovered that Maximilian Brückner and his character Thomas are not in it. Apart from anything else we have loose ends regarding his, frankly, unhinged wife. With that as a proviso, I am still pleased that I watched this season of Arctic Circle even if I don’t watch the next but it does leave a strange aftertaste knowing some characters (and their storylines) disappear.

Trailer:

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