Top 5... - August 10, 2015

The Saboteurs (and five of the best TV series about WWII)
by James
James
by James hmv London, Bio "Like the legend of the Phoenix, I've just eaten a whole packet of chocolate HobNobs..." Editor, hmv.com

The Saboteurs (and five of the best TV series about WWII)

Since BBC Four first re-broadcast Swedish crime drama Wallander in 2010, recent years have been pretty successful for Scandinavian TV exports; as well as a British remake of the series starring Kenneth Branagh as the curmudgeonly detective, Danish political drama Borgen and Norwegian crime series The Killing have also proved to be huge hits for the BBC, the latter earning itself an equally successful American remake produced by AMC.

It doesn't stop there either; shows like Lilyhammer have helped spearhead Netflix's drive for original content on its streaming service and last year's re-broadcasting of Swedish-Danish co-production The Bridge completed a run of 'Nordic Noir' success stories for BBC Four.

The last few months have seen other channels getting in on the action too, with Henrik Björn's Jordskott currently nearing the end of a 10-episode run on ITV, while Channel 4 has just completed a six-episode broadcast of The Saboteurs, the Norwegian wartime drama, which also arrives in stores today (August 10th) on DVD and Blu-ray.

Originally aired in Norway under the title Kampen om Tungtvannet (The Heavy Water War), The Saboteurs explores the details of a small but crucial mission to thwart Adolf Hitler's plans to build an atomic bomb during WWII by sabotaging a heavy water plant in the Norwegian town of Rjukan. If that sounds familiar, it's probably because Anthony Mann's 1965 film The Heroes of Telemark basically covers the same story, but where Mann's account is heavily fictionalised and crammed into two hours for the big screen, The Saboteurs explores the story in much more detail, with a particular focus on Norwegian scientist-turned-saboteur Leif Tronstad.

Heavily associated with the Norwegian resistance movement during Nazi occupation, Tronstad helped orchestrate the sabotage operation, a mission which almost ended in disaster when two gliders carrying British troops crashed into the mountains, leaving a team of Norwegian soldiers hiding in the forest and hunting their own food for several weeks while the Allies hastily scrabbled together a Plan B.

The Saboteurs offers an eye-opening account of just how close Germany came to successfully creating nuclear weapons during the second world war, and how a small team of soldiers scuppered Hitler's plans by the narrowest of margins. You can find the trailer for the series below, underneath we've picked five other great wartime dramas for those hungry for more...

 

Band of Brothers

Based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Stephen Ambrose, HBO first aired the excellent wartime drama Band of Brothers in 2001. Produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, with the latter also serving as narrator for the series, the series charts the exploits of 'Easy Company', the nickname given to the 506th parachute infantry regiment of the US Army and whose operations included roles in the D-Day landings and the 'Battle of the Bulge' in Belgium, among many others. With an impressive cast that includes Damian Lewis, Michael Fassbender, Dexter Fletcher and Donnie Wahlberg, Band of Brothers was the most expensive TV show ever made at the time of its maiden broadcast and is still one of the most realistic accounts of the US Army's role in WWII.

 

The Pacific

After the success of Band of Brothers, Spielberg and Hanks teamed up again to create a follow-up series, The Pacific, first broadcast in 2010. Again, the action is set in WWII, but this time the storylines centre around the experiences of a US Marine Corp squad locked in battle with Japanese forces. Unlike its predecessor however, the story also focuses on the lives of soldiers selected to return home in a US government plan to increase the sale of war bonds, tracking their initial joy through a journey of regret and survivor guilt.

Every bit as engaging as Band of Brothers, The Pacific's cast includes James Badge Gale, Joseph Mazzello and Jon Seda, once again becoming the most expensive television show on the air, breaking the record set by its predecessor.

 

Das Boot

A serialisation of Wolfgang Petersen's 1981 German-language film of the same name, Das Boot the TV series was also directed by Petersen and, like the film, details the exploits of a German submarine crew in the midst of the 'Battle of the Atlantic' in 1942, when Nazi U-Boats were tasked with disrupting and destroying British ships.

Starring musician / actor Herbert Gronemeyer and legendary German stage actor Jurgen Prochnow, Das Boot finds the crew of a U-boat crew struggling with increasingly impossible missions and wrestling with the ideology of their Nazi commanders, offering a unique insight into the experiences of German naval officers as Hitler's plans began to unravel. For any fans of wartime dramas, this is an absolute must-see.

 

Bomb Girls

One of the few drama series set during wartime that puts the role of women front and centre, Canadian drama Bomb Girls began broadcasting in 2012, with a second season airing the following year. The series explores the lives of a group of women working in a munitions factory, producing bombs and other weapons for use by the Allies in Europe. The factory proves a great leveller as all the women come from a variety of social backgrounds, but being the 1940s many have been confined to life as a housewife up until this point and many struggle to adapt to their new-found liberty. With two series and a feature length TV movie already in the can, there's plenty to delve into.

 

Generation War

Originally commissioned by German broadcaster ZDF and broadcast under the title Unsere Mütter, Unsere Väter (Our Mothers, Our Fathers), Generation War was re-broadcast under its new title early in 2014 on BBC2 and takes a look at the lives of young people during the second world war from a German perspective. The series caused much controversy both in Germany and elsewhere in Europe for what some saw as an overly sympathetic portrayal of young soldiers serving under Hitler's regime. Others however lauded the programme makers' bravery and if nothing else it's a fresh view of a well-worn narrative and well worth a look.

The Saboteurs
The Saboteurs Per-Olav Sørensen

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