This week from MHz Choice on DVD is an intense telling of war time and decisions that changed history with Per-Olav Sorensen direction of “The Heavy Water War.”
It is 1933 and Werner Heisenberg (Christoph Bach) has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics and soon after begins his secret work for the Nazi’s called Uranverein. Believing that the atom bomb can only be made with hydrogen infused water, the Germany government uses a Norsk Hydro factory in Norway. The reason being is that this particular factory can make the water in mass quantity.
Alarmed at learning what is happening in his country, Professor Leif Tronstad (Espen Hoiner) escapes to England so he can help the Allied Forces stop what could escalate the war. Working with Wilson (Pip Torrens) and Julie Smith (Anna Friel) they work up plans to send a group of men into Norway so sabotage the Norsk factory.
As The Grouse team arrives, a winter storm throws them off course leaving no chance to reach the factory. Poulsson, Kjelstrup, Haugland and Helberg are hold up in a cabin with little food and water waiting for more instructions. The second group, The Gunnerside Team of Ronneberg, Haukelid, Kayser, Idland, Storhaud Stromsheim and Tronstad take extraordinary risks when the original plan of action changes.
In charge of the factory is Bjorn Henriksen (Dennis Storhoi) who knows that the Nazi’s are watching his handling of the plant and holding him responsible when things go wrong – and things keep going wrong. Knowing there are attempts from the outside, it isn’t as easy when the plots are also coming from inside the plant itself. So invested in the plant that wife Ellen (Maibritt Saerens) makes friends with the people of the town including a little girl named Lise.
When the tides turn on the war, the Allies move faster toward the factory to ensure that not one single drop of heavy water falls into German hands!
Hoiner as Tronstad is the first to leave his family to help the Allies when it comes to the potential of the Nazi’s working toward a nuclear weapon. Tronstad jumps from the get-go in putting together a team that will go into Norway with the intent of sabotaging the factory. Hoiner in this character role wears his heart out on his sleeve as the responsibility for the lives of the men taking on the mission is intense. He takes Tronstad through every emotion and the viewer will feel it absolutely and that’s one of the biggest ways to keep my interest in a story. Hoiner isn’t all pomp and military and although he wants to be, sending these men that include a close friend takes its toll.
Bach as Heisenberg is clearly a man with not only the inability to understand that what he was trying to prove was just as insane as war itself but narcissistic about it too drove me nuts. Also the sign of good acting! Continually trying to prove his theory, this character has nothing to lose really. I enjoyed Bach’s portrayal because as the story continues, he is forced to come face to face with what it is he is actually trying to accomplish and for who.
Friel as Julie is a woman who is all military minded, that is until her story comes out. She is totally dedicated and there isn’t anything about her character I didn’t cheer for. Friel brings strength, meaning, intelligence, no-nonsense and a dedication to a job that can sometimes be tough to take. Even when that toughness is tested, Friel gives her character the ability to question but know there won’t always be an answer.
Storhoi as Henriksen takes the position of director at the factory knowing full well the repercussions of what will happen once the war is over. His dedication to the factory has little to do with the Nazi’s as much as he wants to keep the plant open and the workers with a job to take care of their families. That is all well and good but doing good doesn’t erase the wrong. Storhoi gives this character a poker face when confronted both on the job and at home playing to who ever is testing him.
Saerens as Ellen is such a multi-layered character as she must accept what her husband is doing for the Nazi’s. Trying to be supportive to her husband, it often comes into conflict as she tries to help the household staff survive what is happening around them. She also takes little Lise under her wing to find solace and to have someone to care for. I absolutely enjoyed Saerens performance and felt sorry for her on more than once occasion.
Other cast include Peri Baumeister as Elisabeth Heisenberg, Torstein Bjorklund as Arne Kjelstrup, Benjamin Helstad as Jens-Anton Poulsson and Corey Johnson as General Pritchard.
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TUBS OF POPCORN: I give “The Heavy Water War” four tubs of popcorn out of five. This is a truly well done not only in the believability of the characters but the set design, costuming, score and direction. This is a part of history that I had only heard a tad bit of this history so it is extraordinary to watch each episode. The story not only unfolds but shares the drama of everyone involved in war.
From families struggling to survive both physically but dealing with the uncertainty of whether they will all stay together. It is the story of the sacrifices of the soldiers running into the fray to do what is right not just for the people of Norway but knowing their success will trickle down to everyone and lives will be saved.
The history of the story is so in depth that I had to do more looking myself into a part of this history I didn’t know. During my education I had no idea that the Germans were even attempting to create a bomb or how close they came. This series brought that curiosity out and now I’m actually reading a book about it.
This is one of those series that you have to watch in its entirety with a binge watch because it is that engrossing! Each of the characters brings a performance that is riveting to watch and, in some cases, very intense as the minutes passed between mission and headquarters. It’s not like now where communications are instantaneous, but instead messages would go out and sometimes go unanswered or not received because the technology was in its infancy.
The DVD includes all six episodes on three discs culminating in 267 minutes of an amazing story of the struggle that would shape the destiny of Europe. The episodes are Norwegian with English subtitles although there are instances where episodes include English speaking characters.
So plan ahead to grab onto one of the most brilliant series to come from MHz on DVD with “The Heavy Water War.”
In the end — with a nuclear weapon the enemy would have won the war!