Currently streaming on AMC+ from writer/director Andrew Haigh from the novel by Ian McGuire is the five-part television series THE NORTH WATER.
It is 1859 and Patrick Sumner (Jack O’Connell) is a surgeon who has joined the whaling vessel Volunteer. He watches the crew and particularly a man named Henry Drax (Colin Farrell). Drax is a ruthless man who has done heinous things so being part of the crew as the harpooner, he manages to avoid the law.
Sumner has his own past that he is trying to get away from and does so with bottles of laudanum. As they go further north to look for whales, Captain Brownlee (Stephen Graham) has made a deal with the company for what is to happen with the ship. Sumner also tries to help the whalers and discovers the dangers of the waters. On board, it is discovered that a cabin boy has been treated horribly and Sumner is not about to let it go.
Looking for the man responsible, Sumner’s eyes turn to Drax and with good reason and Brownlee meets the hostility of a crew member. The ship continues north even though the crew does not understand why. With the help of another ship, the Hastings, a plan is put into motion but, as with all evil plans, everything goes wrong. As the ship is in distress, the crew is abandoned on an ice shelf waiting for a good time to board the Hastings.
Cavendish (Sam Spruell) has taken charge but the next morning the Hastings is no where to be found. What is left of the crew boards the rowboats and try to find a pace to be safe. On a rock surrounded by ice mountains, the crew try to survive. When a pair of Inuit arrive, there is meat for everyone but Drax and Cavendish as always, want more. If things are not already bad, they are about to get worse.
As the others trek across the ice, Sumner follows a bear in hopes of having food. Another storm hits when he is discovered by a priest (Peter Mullan) who takes him in. The Inuit come to hunt with Sumner, and he begins to have a legendary name for himself. But Sumner has other plans and wants to get home.
Once home, he discovers the truth about the journey and decides to take care of it all once and for all.
McConnell as Sumner begins the series as a young man dealing with the injustices of war, greed and those who held his life in his hands. Taking the vessel surgeon job on the Volunteer was the only thing he had left in his life. It is on the journey that Sumner realizes that treachery can be found anywhere in the world, not just on the battlefield. McConnell is absolutely stunning in this role, and I loved every step he took from start to finish. The growth of the character came to be in good hands with this actor.
Farrell as Drax is out and out vicious, diabolical, deliberate and menacing. Keeping his character so hidden like a ragged harpooner added such depth to what this character was consistently doing to those around him. That being said, Farrell has the amazing ability to play an amazing, good person but when he goes bad, he truly goes full force bad. Drax is a full-on bad man who does not see anything wrong with what he does.
Graham as Brownlee is a man who is trying to find his own redemption in the whaling world and the only way to do that means committing a different kind of crime. Spruell as Cavandish, who starts out as friends with Drax, comes to see that there is no future in befriending the devil.
Shout out to Tom Courtenay as Baxter, the man responsible for setting into motion the events that put lives in danger, caused death and the eventual confrontation with Patrick Sumner. I have always been an avid watcher of Courtenay’s work and he continues to shine.
Other cast include Kieran Urquhart as Jones, Philip Hill-Pearson as McKendrick, Nive Nielsen as Anna, Jonathan Aris as Corbyn, Lee Knight as Stevens, Gary Lamont as Webster, Eliza Butterworth as Hester, Mark Rowley as Bain, Roland Moller as Otto and Tom Courtenay as Baxter.
AMC+ is an American subscription video on demand streaming service owned by AMC Networks that was launched in June 2020. The service streams THE WALKING DEAD franchise as well as MAD MEN, FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES and currently THE NORTH WATERS. For more of what they have to offer please visit www.amcplus.com.
The five-part episodes include Behold the Man, We Men Are Wretched Things, Homo Homini Lupus, The Devils of the Earth and To Live is to Suffer.
THE NORTH WATER is a series you must binge watch. I could not stop and do not regret a moment of it. This is a series about what men do to one another, the reasons they do it (whether good or bad is indifferent to their reasons), the horror of what memories can push someone to and when you put it all in a mixing bowl, the results are disastrous.
The cast is amazing led by O’Connell as Farrell lies low in the background but never letting you forget he is there. The entire cast put their stories out to lead the story in different directions but never straying from the fact that the boat they are on is leading them to death. Using the barren lands of the Artic, there is nothing distracting the viewer from investing in every moment of Patrick Sumner’s experience.
In the end – the hunt will change!