This is a re-make of the Danish-Swedish TV series The Bridge, AKA Bron, AKA Broen. There are several possible bridges they could have used in the UK, including the Tower Bridge in London and the massive Firth of Forth bridge in Edinburgh. In France there are the famous bridges over the Seine and, I assume, many others. But none of them span two cultures, like the Øresund or Öresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden. So in a stroke of genius they moved the story to the Channel Tunnel, one of the modern engineering wonders of the world. The production was granted unprecedented access to the tunnel, which runs thirty miles under the English Channel, linking Folkestone and Dover to Calais. It is rail-only, no one gets to drive through it. Automobiles and freight lorries (in one direction) and voitures and camions (in the other direction) are loaded onto huge double-decker trains that go nowhere else but through the tunnel. The trip takes thirty-five minutes, vs. ninety for the ferry.
As in the original, parts of the bodies of two women are found joined together exactly on the line between England and France. As in the other, there is a culture clash, with straight arrow, Asperger’s Syndrome Elise Wassermann, played brilliantly by Clémence Poésy, being forced to work with the much more laid back DCI Karl Roebuck, played by Stephen Dillane, who I recognized as the monstrous Stannis Baratheon from Game of Thrones, who burned his daughter alive for the chance to sit on the Iron Throne. (Didn’t do him a bit of good, I’m happy to say. Stannis died bloody and alone in the snow. He had plenty of time to sit there and contemplate what a monster he became before he burned that sweet little child. Then his head was chopped off by Brienne of Tarth. Good riddance.)
In some ways I liked this version even better than the original. There have been some changes made, some minor plot points and a few major ones, mostly to pump it up, make it more violent and larger. But none of it hurts the story. Most of the sets are larger and more dramatic. But it’s a very close thing. In some ways I liked the original better.
The main thing one will probably consider in comparing the series revolves around the female detective. Both men who play Martin/Karl do a fine job, but the fascinating character is Saga/Elise. This is also a very close one. My choice as the best, in a photo finish, is Sofia Helin. This isn’t to take anything away from Ms. Poésy. And some days, they finish in reverse order.
A note on culture clashes. In this one there are problems associated with English and French languages. They frequently don’t understand each other, as not everyone is bilingual. In the original, it was usually very hard for me to know if something was happening in Sweden or in Denmark. No one seems to have any trouble communicating. Yet in the DVD extras much is made of the cultural differences between the two countries. I looked into it, and it seems the Swedes and Danes are usually able to makes themselves understood to each other. The languages are different, but have many of the same roots and even the same words, and thus are much closer to each other than English is to French. I know I missed a lot of things because I never had the slightest idea who was speaking what language. Did the Danes talk Swedish, or vice versa? I hadn’t a clue. I doubt any English speaker would. It’s all Dutch to me.