First Look: The Premiere of Sky Atlantic’s ‘Fortitude’

 A fortifying night in the company of Sofie Gråbøl, Luke Treadaway and Christopher Eccleston. 

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And so to the premiere of Fortitude last night in London, where all the stars of the show assembled to hit the (fake) snow adorned carpet, navigating blocks of moodily lit sculptured ice and eerie sound effects along the way. There was a palpable sense of scale to the event that clearly demonstrated Sky Atlantic’s ambition for the show – a series that is being simultaneously broadcast in five territories on January 29th.

Though made with an estimated production budget of £25m, it was revealed during the informative and entertaining Q&A afterwards that the show encountered an abundance of serious challenges, most remarkably the complete lack of snow in Iceland at the time of shooting – and how the production team had to ship in tons of fake stuff in order to start shooting – an incredibly rare, if not unheard of phenomenon in the location.

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The Fortitude of the title is a developing settlement where a community lives and works surrounded by the harsh but beautiful polar landscape. The Killing‘s Sofie Gråbøl plays Governor Odegard, a former lawyer and law enforcer who is striving to build a vast ice-hotel to bring tourist wealth to Fortitude – an already blessed town that boasts zero crime levels, despite having an overzealous and well armed Sheriff on hand (a superb performance from Richard Dormer as the belligerent and enigmatic Dan Anderssen). But as soon as her visionary plans for the building are being presented to investors, things rapidly start to unravel. Polar Bears are on the loose and rumoured to be encroaching the town, and the discovery of some thawing prehistoric mammal remains threatens her project getting off the ground as Professor Stoddart (Christopher Eccleston) wants time to examine the ramifications of this exciting find. A child falls unexpectedly ill, with what is suspected polio, and we see cracks emerging in what at first appears to be a close-knit community. But when a badly mutilated body is discovered by newcomer Vincent (Luke Treadaway), it appears the town is looking at both its very first murder victim and its first suspect.

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Michael Gambon is excellent as ever (as well as being delightfully candid in the Q&A about what drove him to take on the role) as a sickly Polar Bear fanatic, and Stanley Tucci does what he does best as an investigator flown in to take control of the investigation, fuelling an entertaining battle of wills with the Sheriff.

Fortitude is, like all good drama, big on characters, and it is these characters that will carry this ambitious 12-part show, which is already complex by the end of its first 90 minutes. It’s an intriguing premise set in a dramatic environment and features some very talented actors, so it’s going to be interesting to see where it goes next. From what the series producer (Patrick Spence) said during the Q&A – it looks like we should expect the unexpected as the series continues, as we for one want to be along for the ride.

Fortitude begins on Sky Atlantic on 29th January 2015