The Nobel TV series is a political thriller from Norway infused with a heavy dose of the war in Afghanistan. Jumping back and forth in place and time, Nobel keeps viewers slightly off balance. In one setting, there is the constant threat of attack from the Taliban. Home in Norway, there is international deal making, governmental department rivalry, and, perhaps, a conspiracy. In short, Nobel is tense, riveting, and one of the best foreign TV series we’ve seen this year on Netflix.
After a particularly artistic opening credit sequence, Nobel opens with a special forces unit from Norway on the ground in Afghanistan. (As part of the International Security Assistance Force, Norwegian troops have been in Afghanistan since 2001.) Sent on a security mission, they take out a suicide bomber. The event has unexpected consequences, setting off a chain of events that echo all the way back to Norway.
The first episode soon shifts to Oslo, where Erling Riiser (Askel Hennie), a member of that special forces unit is home for several weeks of leave. His wife Johanne (Tuva Novotny) works in Norway’s State Department, which is competing with China to make a deal for oil in Afghanistan. We are unsure about connections and alliances between agencies and individuals, and, before the first episode ends, it becomes clear there is much more we do not know.
As Nobel progresses, critical information is gradually revealed, particularly what happens between the first event in Afghanistan and Erling’s return home. We move forward in time from the starting point in each country as the scenes go back and forth in location. It’s an effective approach, though not completely original, for a thriller.
The Nobel TV series is artfully filmed. Though the story stands on its own, the directing and cinematography enhance the effect. In Afghanistan, the landscape is vast and monochromatic, though colors are not washed out like in Fauda. In Norway, the scenery is rich green and blue, but the institutions – the government buildings – are dark grey, as ominous as the desert.
It’s interesting that the above mentioned Fauda and Nobel showed up on Netflix within a few days of each other. Both are intense and riveting TV shows that show the casualties and horrors of wartime with realistic, unvarnished scenes. They are equally effective, but very different in other ways. You can’t go wrong with either one.
Nobel’s eight episodes, each about 45 minutes, are available on Netflix. It was directed by Per-Olav Sørensen (The Heavy Water War) and written by Mette Marit Bølstad and Stephen Uhlander. Nobel premiered on TV in Norway in 2016.
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