The Saboteurs tells the true story of the collaboration between Norway and England fighting to stop London being bombed off the planet by Germany during World War II.
How will it be bombed? It’s all down to a project overseen by Werner Heisenberg (Christoph Bach), a scientist being blackmailed with being sent to the trenches otherwise the powers that be will erroneously out him as gay, and also tell everyone how much he loves the Jews, simply because he quoted a couple of them in his work. Jeez, the Nazis were such narrow-minded bastards. So glad they were sorted out in the end! Anyhoo, we begin in 1938, and Hitler has been in charge of Germany since 1934.
Anyhoo, thanks to Heisenberg, the plan is to turn heavy water into plutonium, due to the new reactor he’s designed, and the result can then be used to make bombs. The heavy water is only made in the Hydro factory in Rjukan, Norway, owned by Bjørn Henriksen (Dennis Storhøi) and so while everyone wants to stop the Nazis, it’s a bit of a thorny issue to have to infiltrate your own country to destroy one of its production facilities, but at the same time, the Norwegian soldiers, led by Leif Tronstad (Espen Klouman-Høiner), who comes over from Norway to England to warn of the Nazi plans, will know the lay of the land better than anyone.
Anna Friel, as Special Operations Executive Major Julie Smith, is missing her husband who disappeared without trace many months ago.
In reality, the Nazi collaborating Hydro directors were not named, so there is no Henriksen, but curiously, there was no Julie Smith, so I’m not sure if she was an amalgamation of other characters or simply a woman thrown into a TV series about a man’s world to be a potential love interest.
While this is a tale which needs more than, say, a two-hour film would require, six 45-minute episodes led to the first one, and part of the second, being incredibly slow-paced. There’s a lot of scene-setting to be done, but some parts of this feel quite hastily written and/or put together. However, it does improve as time goes on. In fact, it really gets going from around episode three onwards, and as the Nazis are out of their bunkers, trying to find out where the saboteurs are (since they’re hearing the occasional noise here and there), it made me feel like a game of Sniper Elite III, when you’re creeping around in the night to be greeted by the occasional inquisitive “Er ist hier” although, unlike this programme, the baddies in that game also started calling out for their ‘Black and Decker’ power tools. I still haven’t figured that one out.
At the end, there’s a summary of what happened to some of the key players, yet it’s clear from comparing the burnt-in Norwegian captions to the English subtitles, that not all the information is given. You can figure out some of it, but why skimp on some of the details?
The series is presented in its original 16:9 ratio and in 1080p high definition, and as you’d expect for a modern series, the print has zero defects and brings the toll and sweat of war to the screen perfectly, often tinted to give the period effect. I’m watching on a Panasonic 50″ Plasma TV with a Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player.
The audio is in DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 and the split-surround is not used greatly, but there are occasional moments like planes flying overhead. Dialogue and ambience are also fine.
Sadly, there are no extras, but six 45-minute episodes is four-and-a-half hours of material, so it going to fill a fair chunk of the disc. At least a trailer would be nice.
The menu has subtle animation of clouds passing behind a shot of the cast, and as for the subtitles, again, Arrow, PLEASE, even when you have English dialogue in these mostly-foreign language dramas, PLEASE SUBTITLE THE ENGLISH DIALOGUE!!!
Viewers often put subtitles on for a reason, and while I use them mainly out of habit, there’s still the occasional word I can’t make out, and it doesn’t help when certain charactes are speaking English in a cod-German accent. And there’s a lot of noise at the start of episode 4… I SAID, THERE’S A LOT OF NOISE AT… oh, you read it. Similarly, it feels weird that the cast are talking in their native tongue in one scene, then talking English in another.
Chapters are a very low five per episode. I go by the rule of thumb of one every five minutes, which would equate to 9.
Running time: 6 * 45 minutes
Distributor: Arrow Films
Released: August 10th 2015
Chapters: 5 per episode
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Languages: Norwegian, German, Danish, English
Widescreen: 1.78:1 (16:9)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Per-Olav Sørensen
Producer: Kari Moen Kristiansen
Screenplay: Petter S Rosenlund, with script development and consultation from Ketil Gølme Andersen, Lars Andersen, Mette M Bølstad, Michael W Horsten and Adam Price
Music: Kristian Eidnes Andersen
Leif Tronstad: Espen Klouman-Høiner
Julie Smith: Anna Friel
Bjørn Henriksen: Dennis Storhøi
Ellen Henriksen: Maibritt Saerens
Werner Heisenberg: Christoph Bach
Elisabeth Heisenberg: Peri Baumeister
Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker: David Zimmerschied
Jomar Brun: Espen Reboli Bjerke
Niels Bohr: Søren Pilmark
Emil Leeb: Robert Hunger-Bühler
Rolf Danielsen: Elg Elgesem
Arne Kjelstrup: Torstein Bjørklund
Kurt Diebner: Andreas Döhler
Hans Storhaug: Endre Ellefsen
Birger Strømsheim: Ole Christoffer Ertvaag
Kasper Idland: Eirik Evjen
Jaques Allier: Dominique Guillo
Leif Jr.: Bo Alexander Hallan
Jens-Anton Poulsson: Benjamin Helstad
Wilson: Pip Torrens
Kristiansen: Glenn Andre Kaada
Knut Haukelid: Frank Kjosås
Einar Skinnarland: Rolf Kristian Larsen
Astrid: Ragnhild Heien Myntevik
Knut Haugland: Audun Sandem
British Soldier: Zdenek Pecha
Fredrik Kayser: Mads Sjøgård Pettersen
General Fischer: Uwe Preuss
Major Decker: Marc Benjamin Puch
Bassa: Ingeborg Sundrehagen Raustøl
Claus Helberg: Christian Rubeck
Joachim Rønneberg: Tobias Santelmann
Tone Jørgensen: Julia Schacht
Lise: Clara Lien Sunde
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.