Sky’s latest project has been in the air for weeks. With a budget of over 25 million pounds, it is unsurprising that the publicity team has had quite a bit to play with. Posters, interviews, hashtags and even a bear on the London underground meant that everywhere you looked you heard about Fortitude. Somehow, they even managed to get the weather right, as a sprinkle of snow lightly coated the British capital hours before airing.
And Fortitude, a made in Britain twelve part psychological TV thriller, feels immense right from the start. Sky’s visually ambitious drama, set in Norway above the Arctic Circle but actually filmed in Iceland, is worth every penny.
Fortitude is a small town like no other, with blindingly white surroundings and breathtaking backdrops. All residents are employed and must carry a rifle to fend off the 3 to 1 bear population. Apparently, one of the safest towns on earth. Or is it?
Sheriff Dan Anderssen (Richard Dormer) is the local head of police in charge of a search and rescue team. When faced with an unsettling, horrific murder, he is forced to work with a Met Police officer, DCI Morton (Stanley Tucci), to unravel this senseless homicide.
“In this place, things can come out of nowhere”, dooms the secretive receptionist Elena (Veronica Echegui). “Monsters. You can’t see them until they have you in their teeth”. Gasp.
A disorientating array of storylines unfolds and I spend two hours trying to keep up. There’s powerful and determined Governor Odegard (Sofie Gråbøl) trying to launch a hotel carved out of a glacier. A local research scientist (Christopher Ecclestone) who ends up dead. Then comes back to life. Then dies again. Some too-hot-to-handle strange mammoth finding appears, hinting at some supernatural creature. A drunken, sick wildlife photographer (Michael Gambon) and a secret that’s eating him alive. A dodgy search and rescue officer who doubles up as unfaithful husband Frank (Nicholas Pinnock) with steamy sessions outdoors, while his sick child with a mysterious illness lies in bed. Then suddenly wakes up to go and find his straying dad.
As more and more misleading storylines flash in front of my eyes and way too many characters for me to get to grips with, I become terribly unsettled. Somehow I managed to miss the vital information that the first episode of Fortitude was going to be two hours long, and yet it doesn’t feel lengthy. Despite the wealth of different threads, each character is delicately introduced. So much happens but nothing feels rushed. Unnecessary nudity is displayed and an American playing a Met Police representative seems a bit unlikely. But then again, I get the impression that nothing is there by chance and nothing is what it appears to be.
Written by Simon Donald, it also stars Jessica Raine, Luke Threadaway and Phoebe Nicholls.
Gripping, intriguing, Fortitude’s icy clasp feels like frostbite, forcing you to compulsively watch right until the end. Can’t wait for more.
Fortitude airs every Thursday at 9pm UK time on Sky Atlantic.
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