Fortitude, TV review: There isn't a woolly jumper in sight but this classy cast still makes a killing

Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series began tonight with a feature-length special

There's no mystery as to where that £25m budget went in Fortitude, Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series, which began tonight. It's all up there on screen, evident from the very first spectacular long shot, as a tiny Michael Gambon trudged across a glimmering frozen beach, underneath a dark, foreboding sky.

Gambon is just one member of the impressive cast that populates this remote ex-mining community in the Arctic, the "Fortitude" of the title. Christopher Eccleston is a research scientist working on the glacier and Luke Treadaway is his keen new assistant. Call the Midwife's Jessica Raine is the isolated wife of a straying husband (Nicholas Pinnock) and The Killing's Sofie Grabol has swapped woolly jumpers for power suits as the polished governor and police chief, Hildur Odegard.

There are too many characters to get a handle on, even over the course of this feature-length special, but Northern Irish actor Richard Dormer made an impression as the truculent local sheriff, Dan Anderssen and it's always a treat to watch Stanley Tucci at work, even when that work involves playing a London police officer with an improbable American accent.

 

This large ensemble cast also meant a multiplicity of storylines to keep up with. There was the young boy struck down by a mystery illness, the prehistoric remains uncovered from the melting permafrost, the plans for a new luxury hotel development, and then, just when you'd given up hope, finally a grisly murder.

The dialogue went about establishing a sense of place a little too strenuously, but that's understandable given there were so many disparate elements to bring together. Fortitude is a place that feels equal parts English, American and Scandinavian, a place where there has never been a crime, yet everyone is harbouring a dark, dangerous secret.

Happily, and contrary to early indications, Sky Atlantic has not attempted a straight Nordic noir homage. Instead, Fortitude has more in common with those snowbound horror flicks (The Thing, 30 Days of Night, Let the Right One In) that rely on the cold climate to deliver to the audience a particularly nasty chill.

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