Blu-ray review: Modus – Complete Season One

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Murder in a Winter Wonderland: A forensic psychologist and her daughter are drawn into the investigation of a series of murders.

Nordic Noir goes all festive with a Christmas thriller based on best-selling author and former Norwegian Minister of Justice Anne Holt’s novel Fear Not.

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Inger Johanne Vik (Melinda Kinnaman) has returned to Sweden after several years working for the FBI as a criminal profiler. Alongside her new career as a part-time university lecturer, she has published a book. Back in her homeland, she is determined to focus on her two daughters. Plans go awry when Inger attends her sister’s wedding reception.

A massive hit when it aired in Sweden, Modus was seen by 1.2 million people. Several other Anne Holt books have been optioned and a second season of Modus will start shooting in 2017. It’s Swedish broadcast coincided with Nordic Noir’s fiftieth anniversary. The series, and Anne Holt’s novel, follows in a long tradition of Scandinavian crime fiction highlighting the cracks in society.

Dark and dense, it explores the highly topical issues of hate crimes and radicalisation.

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The book was the fourth in Vik/Stubo series. Bringing it to screen the producers have shifted the action from Norway to Sweden. Changing location without weakening its cultural focus or softening its dramatic punch, Emmy award-winning screenwriters Mai Brostrøm and Peter Thorsboe zoned in on Anne Holt’s searing social commentary and crafted a series with international appeal. Already shattering records for ratings the series attempts to add to its list of achievements with an award for most characters in a Nordic drama. Boasting 52 speaking parts, more than any other Swedish series, it requires careful watching to get to know and keep up the seemingly constant stream of new faces.

A variation on the tried and tested amateur sleuth and police procedural formats, it occasionally plays out by-the-numbers. Nothing wrong with cliché in a genre but over-reliance on tried and tested routines and the audience will zone out. Pacing is uneven, the series loses momentum half-way through the run and only regains its stride in the final episode.

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Not top-drawer Scandi-drama but it does have thrilling moments. Occasionally playing out like a Nordic Noir greatest hits compilation it’s a stop gap until the next prestige series arrives.

The glue that binds Modus together and makes it watchable despite its faults, and dodgy American accents is some excellent performances. Esmeralda Struwe comes close to selling the series on her own with her convincing portrayal of an autistic teenager who has witnessed a murder and is unable to communicate what she has seen. Krister Henriksson demonstrates precisely why he is one of Sweden’s most in demand actors with a performance which constantly draws your attention. As the husband of a murdered bishop, he convincingly inhabits the character’s skin and is the centre of gravity for every scene he appears in.

Modus – Complete Season One is available on DVD and Blu-ray

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