mon 17/06/2024

The Tunnel, Sky Atlantic | reviews, news & interviews

The Tunnel, Sky Atlantic

The Tunnel, Sky Atlantic

Can Danish-Swedish thriller translate successfully into Franglais?

Entente cordiale? Cross-Channel detectives Clémence Poésy and Stephen Dillane try to plug the culture gap

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the creators of Scandinavia's drama boom could be forgiven if they started behaving like a collection of hysterical Justin Biebers. Not only are their home-grown series hits around the world, they're also being slavishly copied by other broadcasters. The American version of The Killing has been followed by a US take on Danish/Swedish joint effort The Bridge, starring Diane Kruger and set on the Tex/Mex border.

Now here's an Anglo-French spin on it, replacing the titular bridge with our beloved Channel Tunnel.

In some ways it's not a bad idea, since the Tunnel makes a very serviceable focus for the issues of immigration and socio-political tensions that also underpinned the original Scandinavian series. On the other hand you could argue that the relocation is entirely pointless, since it's telling the same story again within a similar European context, albeit with only half as many subtitles since the dialogue is a mixture of French and English. And since the original Bridge was only shown on BBC Four last year, it's hardly as if viewers are crying out for a long-overdue remake ('tecs inside the Chunnel, below right).

But perhaps the new cast can impart some special magic and personal chemistry to the proceedings? Um... after one episode, my inner jury is still out. The pivotal character in the Scandi original was Sofia Helin's detached, chilled-to-the-point-of-rigor-mortis detective Saga Noren, expertly channelling symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome without specifically being diagnosed with it. Helin did it so effectively that it wasn't like watching a performance at all, you just took it for granted that she was that character, in all her weird gracelessness and hermetically sealed obsessiveness. 

It's a tough act to follow. For our French heroine - or anti-heroine - we have Captain Elise Wassermann, played by Clémence Poésy, who's a little too much of a cute baby blonde for the job. It was another nuance of Helin's portrayal of Noren that while at first glance she looked like a stereotyped Nordic pinup, charging around in a classic Porsche in her blonde mane and leather trousers, there was a hardness and remoteness about her that completely undercut it. Poésy is a bit like a pouty French pop star playing hard to get.

Following the original, the fuse is lit on the narrative by the discovery of a composite corpse in the Tunnel, exactly on the French-English boundary (pictured left). The top half is a prominent female French politician who has campaigned against immigration and the EU - a kind of Nigella Farage - and the other bit used to be a Welsh prostitute last seen in Folkestone. Hence The British and French police jointly investigate the case, and Wassermann finds herself grudgingly paired with Kent-based copper Karl Roebuck. The moody shots of Dover docks, grey and chilly Kentish coastline and the functional innards of the Eurotunnel lend some atmospheric ballast.

Roebuck is played by Stephen Dillane so far, at any rate, like a benign, bumbling uncle. "He's a clown," snaps Wassermann, though "buffoon" may be le mot juste. There's a bit of knockabout stuff about him not being able to speak French, though that's partly a device to get everybody to speak more English, while Wassermann's "differentness" is highlighted in quasi-comic exchanges like: Roebuck: "Have you ever considered joining the diplomatic corps?" Wassermann: (expressionlessly): "No. Please get me the information as soon as possible."

Perhaps it's better if you haven't seen the Scandi blueprint. It would have been better still if they hadn't made Tom Bateman's tabloid journalist Danny Hillier (pictured right) - who's used as an information conduit by the unseen killer - such a sneering, coke-snorting caricature of bigoted brutishness. I confess I cheated and watched episode two as well. It picks up a bit, but it needed to.


The top half of the body is a female French politician who has campaigned against immigration and the EU - a kind of Nigella Farage


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters