Blu-Ray Review: Icelandic “Fortitude” Is A Chiller of a Thriller

Stanley Tucci in Fortitude - British Sky Broadcasting Limited 2014
Now out on Blu-ray and DVD today, Fortitude (PBS Distribution, 10 hours) is an Arctic set series about a seemingly idyllic town that gradually crumbles after a man’s murder at the hands of a polar bear. Things are usually never what they seem, especially in Fortitude, as a polar bear may be the least of these denizens’ problems.

Michael Gambon in "Fortitude" - British Sky Broadcasting Limited 2014.
Michael Gambon in “Fortitude” – British Sky Broadcasting Limited 2014.

The first thing you’ll notice about Fortitude is the series’ stunning visuals. Mainly shot in Iceland, the show has a breathtaking sense of scope. Though most of the players in this narrative are emotionally suffocating due to their own harbored demons, they languish amidst an absolutely awe-inspiring environment. If you love wide open canvases that will fill your television screen, Fortitude does the trick.

A jaw-dropping backdrop isn’t the only alluring aspect of Fortitude, as the series,  created by Low Winter Sun and Beautiful Creatures scribe Simon Donald, is filled with intriguing, morally complex characters.

Leading the way is Sheriff Dan Anderssen (Game of Thrones’ Richard Dormer), a tight fisted alcoholic who has a way of covering up the town’s secrets, including the questionable actions of the town’s opportunistic governor (The Killing’s Sofie Gråbøl) and a dying photographer (an always terrific Michael Gambon).

Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who) also stars Professor Charlie Stoddart, the man who may ruin the governor’s plans to build a hotel on a glacier after he learns about a huge discovery that was unearthed in the area. Oscar nominated actor Stanley Tucci enters the fray in the second episode as DCI Morton, a razor sharp and unyielding detective who butts heads with the Sheriff during the murder investigation.

There’s several more characters whose lives play an important role in Fortitude’s gripping and ultimately surreal tale, and though the series does bring a kitchen sink mentality to the table (along with being a thriller, it’s a procedural/detective hybrid that also throws in a possible medical/supernatural conspiracy into the equation), the series confidently pulls all these seemingly disparate elements together.

Special Features: I would have loved a director or creator commentary on the episodes, but that minor complaint washed away thanks to an in-depth 32:52 minute featurette on the making of Fortitude. One interesting fact you’ll learn from watching the segment: Christopher Eccleston would jog around Iceland during his off days which, considering the gorgeous landscapes that are featured in series, is an enviable position.

Fortitude, which aired in the U.S. on Pivot this year, has been renewed for a second season.

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