DVD Review: The Court (Réttur)

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Understated legal drama delivers a compelling verdict.

Inspired by real-life cases, The Court is a seismic event in Icelandic TV’s landscape. Undoubtedly influenced by a succession of American courtroom dramas, it transposes the format onto a Nordic setting, demonstrating that law and justice are sometimes mutually exclusive areas of the legal system.

Confident, urgent, and colourful, Icelandic TV’s first legal drama is a socially charged series that deftly vacillates between moments of intensity and quirky humour. Forensically researched, it highlights the justice systems attempts to stamp out criminality one year after the global economic crisis.

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Overlooked for far too long, Iceland TV was largely ignored when the Nordic invasion of UK TV schedules and first occurred. While fans of subtitled drama were being introduced to series from other European countries the Icelandic film and TV industries steadfastly continued producing content comparable to anything being made elsewhere.

With interest in Icelandic content at an all time after BBC4’s screening of Trapped, fans seeking something new from the land of fire and ice will find The Court is the perfect entry point. Complex and nuanced writing accompanied by uniformly excellent performances mark this series out as one of the most significant dramas yet to be screened in the UK.

Vaulting beyond the confines of a workplace drama, The Court also focuses on the characters personal lives. In-depth characteristics, unexpected emotional journeys, and cleverly integrated backstories separate this series from other “case of the week” programming.

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The Court is based in the offices of legal practice Law and Court Inc. Hot shot lawyer Logi (Magnús Jónsson) has joined the firm on a trial basis promising to double the practice’s caseload within two months. A maverick living on the edge, professionally he has a high profile and an unequalled record. His proficiency and steel-like confidence conceals a private life blighted by personal demons. Imprisoned as a teenager for murder, he was later pardoned and is haunted by guilt. Unable to recall any details of the horrific crime, Logi uses alcohol to numb the pain.

Screenwriters Sigurjón Kjartansson (Trapped), Margrét Örnólfsdóttir, and Kristinn Thordarson intelligently play with expectations throughout the series. Balancing a judicious mix of plot and character driven moments, the writers have delivered an intriguing Nordic Noir filled with insights and observations of the Icelandic legal system. Even-handed in it’s treatment of the judiciary, The Court focuses on crime’s emotional impact on victims and their families.

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Blending case-of-the-week storylines with an ongoing investigation into a serial rapist The Court shatters the myth of a Nordic utopia and exposes society’s flaws in the immediate post financial meltdown era. Continuing the tradition of politically and socially conscious Nordic crime fiction The Court highlights attempts to crush criminal gangs involved in human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

The Court is a topical series which trounces the majority of American and British legal dramas. Peerless performances, supreme writing, and confident filmmaking combine to produce a show without a single wasted scene.

Highly recommended.   

A subtitled DVD is available to order from Shop Icelandic.

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