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Searching for Hunter Miles
"Tumbledown" was a film that slipped under the radar when first released. But, it is a compelling view, as the film artists have invested good feeling in a fairly routine story.
The two principal characters are Hannah, the widow of young popular singer, Hunter Miles, who died a tragic death from a fall off of a mountain in Maine and Andrew, a Hofstra professor, who intends to unlock the secrets of Hunter's life for a book.
The film is all about the bonding of Hannah and Andrew and what the two characters learn from each other and from life. On the surface, both characters are attempting to understand Hunter's life and death. But the real story is about the living, not the dead. One of the most poignant moments of the film is the realization of Andrew that he is projecting aspects of his own life onto Hunter. As a biographer, he discovers that his approach is flawed because he is not entirely impartial.
For her part, Hannah is clearly in a protracted period of grief. Her family, a set of wild and wacky characters called the Jaspersons, have given Hannah the space to recover. But Andrew seems to force the issue instead of allowing Hannah to cope with loss in her own way.
Despite the pop psychology that resulted in a shallow appraisal of life, death, and the painful experience of loss, the film had an endearing quality due to the genuineness of the emotional expression. The dialogue was snappy, the direction crisp, the cinematography of Maine spectacular, and the performers hit all the right notes in this heart-warming rom-dram.
A Father's Secret (2016)
"You're Just Like Your Mother!!!"
"A Father's Secret" (a.k.a., "Hunt for Truth") is one of those experiences that movie lovers call "guilty pleasures." The film is so contrived and so excessive in its bathos that it turns into a fun viewing experience to wait for the twists.
The focal point of the story is attorney Carrie Evans' relationship to her boss, the powerful head of a prestigious law firm and senatorial candidate, Caswell Foxx. There are so many improbable occurrences in this film that it is actually easy to swallow the revelation that Caswell is the secret father of Carrie, having paid off her mother, a woman from the wrong side of the tracks for the snooty Caswell.
One of the most outrageous scenes in the film is when Damon Evans, the supposed father of Carrie, makes a confession in the hospital after he fell down a set of stairs. Damon opens up to Carrie about her mother, Jacquelin, and the man who sired her, Caswell Foxx. It is remarkable that the actors were able to keep a straight face while the sentiment was dripping during this scene.
In the homestretch of the film, the action is so wild that it turns into a cascade of clichés. One of the most memorable lines is when Caswell and Carrie are having a violent confrontation after Carrie disrupted Caswell's campaign speech. In a violent outburst, Caswell cries, "You're just like your mother!" Those were probably the most truthful words spoken in this over-the-top melodrama.
Lying and Stealing (2019)
To Catch a Thief
"Lying and Stealing" was interesting in the development of the central character named Ivan, a clever young man working as an art thief in order to pay off his late father's gambling debts.
Early in the film, there are lively scenes with Ivan pulling off his incredible heists. Along the way, he meets a young woman named Elyse, an actress who claims that she was blackballed from working in Hollywood due to an unscrupulous producer. The pair join forces to mutually aid one another in their endeavors.
The other major character is a nefarious "art consultant" named Dimitry, who is collecting on the gambling debts of Ivan's wayward father. Dimitry is the main object of an FBI agent, who is trying to get at Dimitry by following Ivan. One of the best moments in the film is a lengthy monologue spoken by the FBI agent using the saltiest of language while in a diner with Ivan.
Unfortunately, the good potential was not realized in the second half of the film. The relationship of Ivan and Elyse never got on track because they were so busy in role-playing and covering up the truth to each other. Their best scene together was the impersonation of a hipster couple claiming to be interested in purchasing an expensive home in Costa Mesa, so that Ivan could case the joint for rare art work. But the film imploded with an unsatisfactory and predictable ending that did not make the viewer want to return for a sequel of "Lying and Stealing."
A Christmas Mystery (2014)
A Christmas Mystery? Or a Christmas Romance?
Much of the dialogue of "A Christmas Mystery" seemed telegraphed and stilted. While the filmmakers tried to develop a compelling narrative about the search for a stranger in the life of the deceased mom of the protagonist, Rebecca Clark, the film juggled a romantic connection between the private investigator and Rebecca to the degree that the love story took over the film.
When Rebecca was a child, her dad went missing under suspicious circumstances. It is only in the homestretch of the movie that the story of the father re-emerges. The action was far too pat in tying the Charles Peterson story researched by Rebecca to the personal drama of her family. The convoluted "mystery" of the film's title never developed enough tension, and it seemed like filler, sitting in the backseat as the romance unfolded.
The film tended to turn into comedy in a series of nearly farcical occurrences at a homey bed-and-breakfast. It made no sense to force Andrew to sleep in the cold, dank car, opposed to sleeping in the room with Rebecca. The forced entry into the room by the villain also seemed far-fetched. The most outlandish moment was when Andrew purchased an expensive jewel as a gift for Rebecca at a time when he was sleeping in the car!
While there was good chemistry between the private eye, Andrew Steele, and Rebecca, it was too far-fetched to believe that he was concurrently working for Rebecca and spying on her for another client. That's not a way to build trust in either a business or personal romantic relationship!
This Film Should Be Called "Pill," Not "Phil"!!!
"Phil" is a lightweight comedy/drama in which the filmmaker's heart is in the right place.
Greg Kinnear is outstanding in carrying the film about a hapless, despondent dentist searching for the truth about life. He also skillfully directs the film with an especially fine touch for pacing. For some of the greatest wisdom pertaining to the film's main theme, the action shifts to ancient Greece and the thinker Socrates, who proclaimed that "the unexamined life is not worth living."
Such an examination unfolds in an unorthodox way as dentist Phil impersonates Spiros, an old friend from Greece of the late Michael Fisk. Fisk was briefly a patient of dentist Phil, whose life begins to unravel when Fisk, whom Phil believed was the perfect man, took his own life.
The comic scenes are well played by Kinnear with excellent timing and understatement. Emily Mortimer is good as the widow Fisk, who takes a liking to Spiros and turns her house over to him for a remodeling project. The comic bits are fun as Phil scrambles to make people believe that he is a genuine Greek.
In the end, there is a heart-warming and endearing quality to Phil's character. He means to bring no harm to the widow. He is only searching for the truth in order to heal his own wounded soul. While Phil does not entirely follow Socrates' advice, he nonetheless pursues the journey of truth with good intentions. And intentions do matter in life, even if one's is behaving like a pill.
The Price for Silence (2018)
Double Chocolate Bonanza Brownies
On the surface, there are happy memories of growing up in the Flynn family. Everyone in the town knows about the marvelous double chocolate bonanza brownies that were a family specialty. Now, the father has died, and the two wayward siblings, Kira and Lucas, have reunited with their mother Sheila to attend the their father's funeral. But the dark family secrets will slowly bubble to the surface and engulf the characters in a wild roller coaster ride of emotion.
In this explosive melodrama, the focal point of the family dysfunction is with the history of Kira Flynn. The film's Title of "The Price for Silence" is the price that more than any other character has been paid by Kira. But what actually is her secret that has made her so distraught that she battles alcohol and depression?
The film slowly reveals Kira's secret that has in turn led to a cascade of dysfunction not only in the Flynn family, but the entire town. Richard Davenport is the local business tycoon, who would appear to own the town. Does he even have the local psychiatrist in his hip pocket? What is clear is that he appears to own the hapless Flynn family.
The filmmakers have clearly taken an over-the-top approach with the melodrama, which some viewers may find excessive. But any shortcomings in the dialogue and the plotting are compensated with the well-etched characters. In turn, the cast was outstanding, especially the performer playing Kira, who carried the film from start to finish. The mother character was also strong, as she slowly comes out of her shell, as apparent in the moment when she opens one of the file boxes of her late husband. That experience of opening Pandora's box is a turning point in the film.
"The Prince for Silence" may not be a masterpiece. But in its craftsmanship and the stellar performances, it is a compelling piece of domestic tragedy.
Time of Death (2013)
Price and Larken Make a Good Team!
"Time of Death" is a well-crafted film that is all about teamwork as FBI SA Price links up with Detective Larken to solve a complicated case.
The film's title derives from a diabolical scheme in which murders are being carried out like clockwork at precisely 10:44 pm. The special agent and detective contemplate studying numerology to find out the significance of the time. But it turns out that good, old-fashioned detective work leads them to the killer.
The film had a little bit of everything, including dramatic tension, suspense, careful plotting, colorful locations, and even romance. It was almost inevitable that the sparks would be flying between SA Price and Detective Larken.
Both the character developments and the dialogue were crisp in this especially well-made TV movie. Above all, the acting was terrific, especially the mismatched pair of Price and Larken, who turn out to make a good team.
Near Miss of a Film Includes Poignant Moments
The problem with "Teacher" is that the filmmakers could never make up their mind how to approach the serious topic of bullying. Was this primarily a social drama? Was it dark comedy? Was it a horror picture? Was it a revenge/action picture? The film combined genres into a mishmash of cinematic forms.
The strength of the film was in the interesting set of characters and the attempt to expose bullying, especially for young people at home and in school. The film was successful in portraying the life-damaging consequences of bullying.
We saw this theme unfold through the lens of the protagonist, the English teacher James Lewis. We watch him try to get students to grapple with the question of victimhood in their study of Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice." Like Shylock in the play, Lewis feels that he is an outsider to his world after his own history of abuse at home and at school. Now, in a leadership role, Lewis finds himself in the position to do something about stemming the abuse that he witnesses in his classroom.
Sadly, Lewis was not a very likable character himself, based upon his strange behavior and the inept way that he seeks to help the young couple of Preston and Daniela. The film's ending takes a bizarre and head-scratching turn with Lewis turning the film into a kind of "Death Wish" revenge saga.
The filmmakers deserve credit for raising consciousness about bullying. While it may not be endemic in society to the degree that it is depicted in the film, it is important to understand how any form of bullying may result in a lifetime of damage to a fragile psyche.
One of the best scenes in the film was the confessional of Arabella, who opened up to Lewis about her own history of abuse. Lewis's callous response was surprising, given his own passivity in the face of abuse. He should have responded to her with compassion. Instead, he berated her, she left the bar, and never reappeared in the film. It was in the poor handling of moments like this one that the film let its audience down.
A Story About Journeys
In the bonus track of the DVD of "Tolkien," the filmmakers discuss young Tolkien's love of books coming from the influence of his mother. They also describe adventure and the power of language. But, above all, they identify their film as "a story about journeys."
The slant taken in the making of "Tolkien" was to focus on Tolkien's youth and only marginally to address the years when Tolkien wrote the fictional works for which he is renowned.
Themes that are explored in the film are youth, comradeship, school, love, and war. From an impoverished childhood, or what is described in the film as "impecunious circumstances," Tolkien pulled himself up by his bootstraps as a gifted linguist and student of literature.
Much emphasis in the film is placed on the years at St. Edward's in Birmingham, where Tolkien formed his friendship with boys that led them to form their T.C.B.S. (Tea Club, Barrovian Society) club. The merry band often resembles the comaraderie of Hogwarts. But the attachments are eternal and only become shattered with the coming of the Great War.
The film was especially successful in showing the devastation of World War I. It was at the Battle of the Somme that Tolkien lost his beloved friends, Robert Quilter Gilson, son of the rector at St. Edward's, and the gifted young poet, Geoffrey Bache Smith. One of the most moving scenes in the film is the meeting of Tolkien with Smith's mother, who agrees to publish her son's poems posthumously as "A Spring Harvest." Another school chum, composer Chirstopher Wiseman, survived the war, but apparently was never the same.
Another turning point in the life of John Ronald Ruel Tolkien was his fateful meeting with Edith, who became Tolkien's "Elven Princess." Both were orphans who bonded in their youth and eventually married. The film required double casting for the two roles as the characters aged, and the performances were superb from all four actors.
The film was successful in portraying the intellect of Tolkien, especially in the connection he made at Oxford with Professor Wright, which fatefully drew him to the study of philology. It was that journey that eventually led Tolkien to sit at his desk and write the following words: "In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit." Those words were written in 1937, and the rest is history.
While She Was Out (2008)
"Tis the Season...."
This modest Christmas film features Kim Basinger in the role of Della, a woman who is seeking to break out from her role as the submissive wife of an abusive husband.
It is Christmas eve, and Della is out at the mall doing some last-minute shopping. There are minor inconveniences of the barista misspelling Della's name on the coffee cup, an over-drawn credit card, and a driver who has thoughtlessly parked his car overlapping another space.
Despite the good performance of Miss Basinger, the film turns into a by-the-numbers cat-and-mouse game when Stella is harassed by a group of thugs, then chased through a forest in a dance of death.
The most improbable part of the plot is the tool box carried by Della, from which she draws the instruments to repel her pursuers. The hooligans are some of the most incompetent and stupid young men that one will ever encounter in a film.
As a vehicle for Miss Basinger, the film offered the actress of wide range of choices from the meek house frau to the caring mom to the undaunted survivalist, who will stop at nothing to celebrate Christmas with those dearest to her.
Born Bad (2011)
Good Denny/Bad Denny
"Born Bad" was a by-the-numbers thriller that is driven by a character named Denny Nelson, who has a split personality worthy of Jekyll & Hyde. Denny exude charm for the family of Brooke, win their trust, and then turn like a dime into a psychopathic maniac.
There is a defining moment in the film where the narcissistic Denny is staring at himself in a bathroom mirror, when Brooke's kid brother blunders in and catches Denny in the act of snorting cocaine. It is all downhill after that where the "dark side" of Denny emerges to disrupt the lives of Brooke's family.
As the film progressed, it became less and less credible as the indestructible Denny is stabbed, shot, and pummeled, yet somehow remains standing. The filmmakers tried to achieve a note of redemption at the end with a happy family. But it is hard to eradicate the bad taste of the sleazy character Denny, oozing charm one moment, then turning into Jack the Ripper.
Era Uma Vez Eu, Verônica (2012)
Portrait of a Heart of Stone
In the beautiful setting of Recife, Brazil, "Once Upon a Time Veronica" plays out like a French art film of the 1950s. The pace is sluggish, the silences are protracted, the characters excessively hedonistic, and the film's themes overly pretentious.
The film juggles three strands in the rather pathetic life of Veronica. First, there is her relationship with her ailing father. Second, there is her unfolding career as a medical doctor. Third, there is Veronica's sensual lifestyle explored with her steady partner and others.
Of the three narrative elements, the most touching is Veronica's devotion to her father. The most believable moments occurred in the doting attention he pays her daughter and the reciprocal love she feels for him. A crucial reference point is the house where she grew up that is now shuttered and abandoned.
Much less successful are the scenes depicting Veronica at work as a physician. Rarely does she ever attempt to treat her patients. She has brief conversations and is a good listener. But, nowhere was it credible that she was a real doctor. At one point, she was under review for improper treatment of a schizophrenic. Next, we see her getting a promotion. The professional medical scenes in this film were a mess.
The romantic scenes were also problematic in the lack of intimacy or genuine connection Veronica was making with her paramour. She is unable to commit to marriage or even a permanent live-in relationship with her boyfriend. She seems to enjoy frolicking in groups more than in the one-to-one connection with another human being.
The interminably slow pace of the film is compounded by Victoria dictating her self-analysis into a recorder. At one point, she admits to herself that she may have a "heart of stone." In this slow-burner of a film in Recife, the subtitle of the film might read: "Portrait of a Heart of Stone."
One Night (2012)
The Barista and the Barkeep
Two strangers passing in the night like ships. A furtive glimpse into the past. Family secrets revealed. Brief, passionate exchanges. Forlorn moments of silence. Extreme vulnerability covered over by anger.
The phrases above are the gist of this fine two-character drama set in a single room. The actors were outstanding in making credible the raw nature of the characters' emotional life. The only artistic choice that was disconcerting was the cigarette smoke that tended to overwhelm and distract, especially when Sid lit up while Max was still eating his eggs.
Another strength of the film was the portrayal of the culture of rejection of L.A. Both the acting and writing professions are brutal, and the film shows the toll that rejection can take on the human spirit.
One senses that the film artists were working from genuine experience in the drama depicted. This was an extremely well-performed mini-drama made memorable by the attention to detail in the naturalism.
Ófærð: Episode #1.4 (2016)
As if the town does not have enough to worry about, the old-timer Guomundur notices the danger of an avalanche, another ominous sign for a community already engulfed in crime and sins of the past.
There was a slow pace to this episode with lengthy stretches of close-ups and silences. Yet one of the best scenes was the quiet moments between Hjortur Stefansson and the father of the girl who died in the warehouse fire. There was a genuine sense of forgiveness on the part of the father and a bonding of the two characters over their mutual loss.
The murder victim has now been identified by DNA profiling. The business magnate, Friorik Daviosson, who is overseeing the China project, had enjoyed Bloody Marys with the man who is likely the killer. A sketch is made that identifies the man who is recognized as residing in the town six years ago. Yet his police blotter has mysteriously disappeared from the files.
As we approach the midpoint of the series, it becomes clear that the community members are concealing sins from the past. Mayor Hrafn Eysteinsson was the former police chief under whose watch the file disappeared. The man in the wheelchair spying on his neighbors was one of those who purchased a cell phone linked to the murderer. The shady businessman, Friorik Daviosson, is up to his ears in corruption. The seedy sea captain appears to be involved in some capacity in human trafficking.
As the numerous suspects are emerging, the episode ends with what appears to be a successful dynamiting of the mountain to prevent the avalanche from burying the town. But suddenly, the avalanche shifts course, and Andri, old Guomundur, and his son Sigurour appear to be buried!
Long Shot (2019)
French Farce on the Beltway
This was a lively film that was cleverly scripted and performed with superb timing. While the relationship between an aspiring female presidential candidate and a leftwing journalist she briefly knew from childhood was never credible, it was nonetheless enthusiastically performed by Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen.
In the bonus track of the DVD, the film producers described how they began with the notion of a making a romantic comedy. But, as the project progressed over a period of many years, it morphed into a political comedy with elements of farce. The film had the feel of television comedy, and, like TV comedies, the combination of diverse styles was never completely synthesized.
Throughout the film, there was a schtick approach to the material as gags, routines, and punch lines were carefully devised. The comic form derived from the staple of French farce that always included high-energy physical comedy, with lovers carrying on trysts in hotels and scurrying in and out of the rooms often in a mad dash to put on their clothing and escape undetected. In the case of the Secretary of State and her male paramour, the conventions of French farce were updated to the age of the internet, as computer cams and cell phones enter into the equation of revealing the secrets of the bedroom.
The farcical style also included two major pratfalls that had nothing to do with the romantic plot. There is a special segment on the DVD called "Epic Flarsky Falls," which shows the behind-the-scenes rehearsal for the stunts involving Rogen's character Fred Flarsky, the most spectacular of which is him leaping out of a window and crashing into a car below in the film's opening scene. Later, he falls down a set of stairs at a posh political party.
While the film included a lot of good fun, there also seemed to be a quasi political message being explored. In 2016 Hilary Rodham Clinton was a former secretary of state running for the office of the President. Theron's character of Charlotte Field was, to put it mildly, nothing like Mrs. Clinton, yet how could the audience fail to make the connection? There was also a clear satirical element on the hypocrisy of political figures, as apparent in the politicians and their careerist staff members.
Still, the film never fleshed out a full-blown satire, and it remained a fairly inconsequential example of slapstick comedy.
The Depravity of a Sleepy Little Town
An essential reference point for the miniseries "Trapped" is the 2008 economic crash that was due to a small number of venal insiders whose amoral actions led to the fiscal hardship and suffering of millions of people globally. This television series captures that crisis in microcosm by examining the actions of a tiny group of oligarchs in a coastal town in Iceland. The sins of the oligarchs are visited upon the community as a whole, and the town is trapped both in a literal blizzard and a snowstorm of human depravity.
The multiple homicides in the town, along with corruption and human trafficking, were not the work of diabolical monsters, but were acts committed by ordinary people. In the aftermath of the 2008 crash, an act of arson senselessly took the life of a young woman. It appeared that in trying to bury the crime, the perpetrators became enmeshed more deeply in a virulent spiral of wrongdoing. There is an effective symmetry to the series that begins and ends in the fish factory where the fire occurred.
The strength of the individual programs lies not in the suspense or the complex narrative. Rather, it is the meticulously developed characters that make Trapped a compelling viewing experience. From the tireless chief of police Andri, who carries the town on his shoulders like Atlas carries the planet, to the resident voyeur peering through his telescope at his neighbors, to the strange mix of local entrepreneurs, a fascinating set of quirky characters is on display. The depravity of the adults even trickles down to the children, wherein one of Andri's daughters sadistically baits, taunts, and bullies little Maggi.
The directorial work with the camera was superb in capturing the looming presence of the enormous ferry, a spectacular avalanche, and the more subtle moments of children peeing in their pants out of a genuine sense of fear. One of the best scenes in the film was a quiet moment in the local church where Andri delivered an impromptu address, warning the congregation members that their community has been infected by "one among us."
The film intentionally does not tie up all the loose ends in expectation of a second season. But the first season ends on a note of integrity with Andri and his two loyal police deputies having conducted an investigation that finally relieves the burden of the past by getting at the truth of the fire that was the principal symbol of the bereft community. As stated succinctly in the Gospels, once discovered, "the truth will set you free."
Ófærð: Episode #1.10 (2016)
The Depravity of a Sleepy Little Town
In this concluding episode of the series, Andri appears to have hit rock bottom, when, after arresting his father-in-law for the murder of the mayor, he receives a tongue-lashing from his ex-wife and is booted out of the house. The wife admonishes him for not exonerating the old man and covering up the crime, then takes the children away with her to live with her new boyfriend.
The backstory of the murder of Geirmundur is that he had raped Maria, and the result was the little boy Maggi. The crooked police chief (and later the mayor) Hrafn let Geirmundur off the hook on the condition that he set fire to the factory. After setting the building ablaze, Geirmundur rescued Hottir from the conflagration. They both skidaddled to Spain. When Geirmundur returns to the town, he breaks in on Maria, and she stabs him in self-defense. That incident was covered up by the oligarchs.
There is a poignant moment in this episode when the police officer Henrike confronts the local hotel proprietor, accusing him of enabling human trafficking and abetting murder in a "sleep little town." The multiple homicides in the town, along with corruption and the human trafficking, were not the plans of a diabolical monster, but rather by rather ordinary people within an ordinary community. The sins of the past are denoted in the act of arson that took the life of a young woman. It appeared that in trying to bury a crime of the past, select residents became enmeshed more deeply in amoral wrongdoing.
The culminating sequence is ironically a return to the site of the fish warehouse where the original fire took place. It is there that a reckoning finally occurs with the forces of evil that boiled to the surface in the story of a sleepy little town.
Ófærð: Episode #1.9 (2016)
The Circle is Beginning to Close
In this penultimate episode, the filmmakers return to the tragic fire that opened the series. Eirkur confesses to murdering the mayor on impulse because he felt that Hrafn was responsible for the death of his daughter. The fish warehouse was torched in an insurance torch job without the arsonists knowing that the kids were in the building.
Hinrika has learned that the Dagnur corporation has been buying up plots of land for sale to the Chinese for the new port. Somehow, the members of the corporation are linked in a conspiracy that ties in to the fire and the first murder victim.
The name of the man murdered and dismembered is Geirmundur, a former resident of the town. Through the town voyeur, Andri and Hinrika learn that he had used his telescope to observe the fateful conversation between Geirmundur and Hrafn. After the argument, Geirmundur met his death.
One of the details recalled by the voyeur was that Geirmundur was driving a blue vehicle. Andri and Hinrika search for blue vehicles that have not been moved in a week, and they discover a rental car with a wrapped gift of a red truck. This is the gift promised to little Matti by his estranged father. In turn, the grandfather of little Matti is Leifur, who owned the fish factory. The circle is beginning to close!
Ófærð: Episode #1.8 (2016)
The Dominoes Start to Fall!
In this eighth episode, the dominoes start to fall with the arrest of both the sea captain and the nefarious engineer. These two suspects have clear ties to human trafficking. But what could be their connection to the two local murders?
In questioning the sea captain, Andri learns that the true operative in criminal activity is the engineer. A chase ensues in which Andri and his assistant are able to apprehend the man. The connection is established between the engineer and Guoni, the local hotel manager in the human trafficking ring.
The contrite sea captain is willing to cut a deal to save himself and his Danish family. The filmmakers try to turn an extremely depraved character into a slightly more human one by showing him in a Skype conversation with his daughters.
Andri's assistant in the police force has leaked Andri's personal report to the media. In that way, the investigation into the crime will continue, and Andi is now appointed to lead the investigation after the disgrace of Trausti.
The major revelation of this episode comes when Andri is engaged in the mundane task of doing laundry, and out pops the key to a padlock from the soiled trousers of his father-in-law, Eirikur. In the closing moments of the program, the key opens the lock to the shed where the town mayor was murdered.
Ófærð: Episode #1.7 (2016)
The Beginning of the Thaw
With the change in the weather and the ending of the storm, the Reykjavik authorities arrive in the small town, led by the nearly sadistic police detective Trausti. There is some baggage from the past, as Trausti was once the partner of Andri. When Andri used too much force to coerce a suspect, Trausti reported the incident, and Andri was demoted. Now, Trausti is the official in charge of the investigation.
After his own use of force in coercing the distraught Sigurour into a confession for both murders, Trausti believes he has wrapped up the case. But when Sigurour is flown out of the community by helicopter, he leaps out of the chopper and falls to his death.
The true colors of the widow of the mayor begin to emerge when it is apparent that she is the ringleader in turning the small community into a port for the Chinese.
With testimony from the kind chef aboard the ferry, Andri and Hinriki make an arrest on the captain, just as he is about the sail away after Trausti granted him permission to end the quarantine.
Ófærð: Episode #1.6 (2016)
"Stuck in a Nightmare"
By episode six, it is clear to the viewer that a problem with "Trapped" is that this long miniseries is essentially about waiting. The small Icelandic town is in a kind of quarantine due to the weather and the imposition of a travel ban to prevent the murderer from escaping. The waiting concept is provocative in Samuel Beckett's famous existential play "Waiting for Godot." But for a television thriller, the result is stasis.
The tagline for this episode comes from the female police officer, who feels that the community is "stuck in a nightmare." There have now been multiple homicides, and it is not yet clear if the murders are connected. Following the death of the mayor, his abused wife is a person of interest. Unknown to the police, she has been one of the movers and shakers in the China deal.
The best scene in the episode is the impromptu speech delivered in the Protestant church by Andri. When he addresses the townspeople, he makes the chilling statement that the killer is "one of us." As the camera pans around the pews, there is no shortage of suspects.
The conclusion of the episode focuses on Sigurour. His father's death has left him bereft and guilt-ridden. When the police arrive to question him, he races out of the house will a rifle. He is followed to small fishing boat, and lo and behold, the police discover in the hold the missing torso!
Ófærð: Episode #1.5 (2016)
The Old Man and the Mountain
At the midpoint of the series, the pacing seems sluggish and deliberate in juggling the plots of criminals in human trafficking, a murderer on the loose, and the local oligarchs scheming to take over the lifeblood of the community in the land.
At the heart of the episode is the death of old Guomundur, killed in the avalanche. The mission of "search and rescue" turns into "search and recovery." This means that the precious plot land will pass to the old man's wayward son Sigurour, who now has more power than he ever thought possible.
Another thread of the drama that is developed is that the sea captain and his nefarious henchmen are clearly involved in human trafficking and are scheming to take back the Nigerian girls now residing in the town.
Much of the episode was devoted to a long, static sequence with the female police officer and the crippled man, who uses his telescope to spy on the townspeople. But he was also a witness to a meeting of the mayor Hrafn Eysteinsson with another man, which may hold the key to discovering the murderer.
At the close of the episode, there is a stunning turn of events when Hrafn meets in his shed with a stranger obscured in the darkness. Suddenly, Hrafn is assaulted and locked in the shed, which is set afire by the assailant. The abused wife of Hrafn stares with awe at the conflagration as the program concludes.
Ófærð: Episode #1.3 (2016)
"A Royal Mess"
In episode three of "Trapped," the thick plot grows even thicker! As one character muses, "What is going on around here?"
By the end of this program, it would appear that two suspects are eliminated from consideration as the murderer. One is the wayward Hjortur Stefansson. While Hjortur possibly started the blaze in the fish factory when he lit his lighter while urinating, he clearly did not intentionally set the fire. There is no other evidence linking him to the recent murder. The Lithuanian criminal is also ruled out as a suspect after he broke his neck driving away in the police vehicle following his prison break.
The little kids are rounded up after walking out into the snowstorm. The girl who was taunting the boy is sufficiently contrite and apologizes for her cruel remarks. The son of the elderly man refusing to sell his land is backed into a corner when his father adamantly stands his ground, placing the son in a major fix.
The episode is driven by the search for any possible remaining body parts. A small crew led by the policewoman's husband brings up a bag that contains a hand along with other evidence.
The quick-thinking Andri, who early called his situation "a royal mess," immediately notices that the pack of cigarettes is a Spanish brand purchased at a local hotel. Both the victim and his killer were not aboard the ferry. Instead, they were residing in the peaceful community of Logregan!
Ófærð: Episode #1.2 (2016)
"America Is Finished!"
In this second episode of "Trapped," the veneer of civilization seems to be eroding in the small Icelandic community of Logregan. A brief summation of this episode would be as follows: everything that CAN go wrong DOES go wrong! There is also a proclivity for voyeurism in this town with a man with a telescope observing neighbors and the latest gossip appearing on Twitter.
A new political dimension is introduced in the town council's plan to capitulate to the business interests of China in selling choice plots of their land, turning it over as a depot for Chinese sea traffic. But there is one old-timer who resists the plan and vows to stand firm.
The vicious Lithuanian criminal dealing in human trafficking is apprehended by Andri. The two Nigerian girls who were his captives are taken in one of the kind police officers to live in her home. The Logregan prison cell has no toilet, and when the criminal is being escorted to the facility, he gets the drop on the local police officer and makes his escape. But, as yet, there is no evidence linking the human trafficker to the murder.
In the meantime, the prodigal son, Hjortur Stefansson, has returned home. This was the young man wielding the knife on the ferry while working in the kitchen. He also got into a fight while the vessel was en route. Additionally, he was allegedly involved in an arson case in Spain. Andri's father-in-law believes that Hjortur was a "monster," who was responsible for starting the fire that took the life of his beloved daughter. Hjortur breaks into the factory and photographs the cadaver being held in storage in the locker, then, apparently, absconds with the primary piece of evidence in the murder case: the frozen torso.
There is also a problematic child in this drama, who is the youngest daughter of Andri and Agnes. The cruel little girl brutally taunts and bullies her classmate. Then, she darts off into the snowstorm with the other girls seeking her. The frantic relatives then head out themselves into the storm.
Ófærð: Episode #1.1 (2015)
Chaos in Iceland
The opening episode of "Trapped" focuses on a sleepy town of law-abiding people on the coast of Iceland. The narrative is built around Andri, the chief of police, who is juggling family tensions and an apparent murder that has taken place.
As the enormous ferry is about to arrive, Andri is informed of a dismembered course discovered in the sea. All indications are that the murder occurred on the incoming ferry from Denmark with the torso dumped in the sea.
Andri and his small police force are awaiting the arrival of the authorities from Reykjavik, but all the flights are cancelled and their arrival is delayed. Andri must also deal with a sinister Danish sea captain who appears to be hiding something and refuses to cooperate with a thorough search of the vessel. Andri gets a lead on a human trafficker aboard the ferry, but the captain breaks his agreement with Andri and lets the motorists depart. Andri gives chase, but the perpetrator escapes into the snowstorm.
The storm has been building through the episode, and Andri must cope with the arrival of his estranged wife Agnes, who brings in tow her new boyfriend. It is a difficult family situation with Andi apparently having custody of two children while Agnes arrives with her new beau.
The snowstorm is the perfect metaphor for the episode in which Andri and the small town are overwhelmed both by the forces of nature and the depravity of human kind with a murderer apparently on the loose. The image of the snowstorm is contrasted with the opening image of a fire that occurred seven years in the past, when a young couple were burnt to death in a warehouse conflagration. The young woman was apparent a member of the local community. The young man survived the fire and was seem ominously in wielding knives while aboard the ferry. Is there a connection?