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  Tunnel, The Trapped Ashes
Year: 2019
Director: Pal Oie
Stars: Thorbjorn Harr, Ylva Fuglerud, Lisa Carlehed, Mikkel Bratt Silset, Peter Forde, Daniel Alexander Skadal, Per Egil Aske, Tor Christian Bleikli, Jan Gunnar Roise, William Oksnevad, Ingrid Anne Yttri, Ingvild Holthe Bygdnes, Sigurd Sele, Igor Necember
Genre: Drama, Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: There are many kilometres of tunnels in Norway that usually conform to safety standards, thanks to official overseers and careful drivers, especially in winter when the conditions can be hazardous. But this Christmas, not everyone is as conscientious as they should be, as one driver is noted for hightailing it down the road, overtaking a convoy behind a maintenance truck which was moving slowly because of the weather, and ended up skidding on the ice, necessitating a recovery truck to take his car away. He has learned his lesson, but some accidents take place where there was nothing that could have been done to prevent them, they are purely bad luck and a set of circumstances put in motion that will spark catastrophe in one of the tunnels...

Norway had a mini-spate of disaster movies around this time, most prominently The Wave which was a very Norwegian thriller about the perils of the fjords, whereas this was about the perils of the country's mountains and how to get through them, also very Norwegian. For that reason these efforts could be regarded as somewhat parochial in outlook, most obviously created for the home audience, but if Hollywood could produce America-centric drama and thrillers which travelled across the globe with great success, there was no real downside in being so specific to a time and place in other nation's film industries as well. At least in theory, though the suspicion that a movie wasn't a proper movie unless there was some American involvement was a difficult habit of thinking to break.

Nevertheless, filmmakers like Pal Oie, who had started in local horror efforts, were not about to allow this to hold them back, and they managed to fashion an "all of human life is here (in Norway)" plot and casting for their adventure. Actually, they were walking a balancing act between keeping it as realistic as possible, meaning there was a near-methodical quality to the proceedings where the problems arose and the characters were given the opportunity to solve them, and then the needs of an emotional connection to the audience were served. In practice, this was a streak of sentimentality a mile wide, and about as long as the nine kilometre tunnel the central crash took place within after about half an hour of establishing those main players who would either be killed or saved, though this was not quite as callous as it could have been in practice.

Technically, our protagonist was first responder Stein (Thorbjorn Harr) whose daughter Elise (Ylva Fuglerud) is one of the victims trapped in the titular underground landmark; she has been chilly to him for supposedly not supporting her through her grief at losing her mother (and his wife), so you can see the way this was going to tug on the heartstrings from a long distance off. When a tanker crashes thanks to a plastic bag planting itself on the windscreen and obscuring the driver's vision, which eventually explodes with all that petrol inside, it's mostly the choking fumes and ashes that are deadly, even over the fire, and the scenes where there are battles for survival were not bad at all. Whether the subsequent schmaltz was going to win you over was a matter of personal taste: you could tell you were being blatantly manipulated, but not in a heartless style, more trying to elicit empathy with your fellow man and woman which in the days of pandemic (this was made just before that took hold) would resonate more with some than others. But if you were looking to feel generous towards people, this might just hit you in the right spot. Oddly, it claimed to be based on a true story in the publicity.

Aka: Tunnelen
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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