The Tunnel, Sky Atlantic, with Stephen Dillane, Clémence Poésy PREVIEW

Clémence Poésy as Elise and Stephen Dillane in The Tunnel on Sky Atlantic
Entente not-so cordiale – Elise and Karl in The Tunnel. Pics: Sky Atlantic

Rating: ★★★★

Sky Atlantic: starts Wednesday, 16 October, 9pm

Story: British and French detectives are pushed into an uneasy alliance when a body is discovered inside the Channel Tunnel, sparking a complex cross-Channel investigation.

IN MOST WALKS of life people would blush if caught pinching someone else’s nifty idea. Not so the execs of television-land, who have no shame.

So, the success of the Danish-Swedish thriller The Bridge, which delighted BBC4 viewers last year,

Clémence Poésy and Stephen Dillane in The Tunnel on Sky Atlantic
Elise and Karl in pursuit of the killer

was quickly ripped off by TV honchos in the US – where the cross-border crime scene was switched the American-Mexican border – and also by those at Sky Atlantic/Canal+, with the Euro Tunnel becoming the focus of attention in The Tunnel.

The US remake has already been a success on FX stateside, and a second season is being filmed for 2014. So, is Sky Atlantic’s bilingual co-production a Bridge too far?

Clémence Poésy and Stephen Dillane

No, it compares very well, in many respects. For a start, whatever the niggles between the Swedes and Danes, they are kid’s stuff in comparison to the long-running bitch-fest of the rosbifs and the cheese-eaters. There is more humour to be milked from the premise in this respect, and The Tunnel doesn’t miss a trick.

The Tunnel - Ep01 .Clemence Posey as Elise & Stephen Dillane as Karl.Car Park Bomb in Danny's car. Sky Atlantic
Odd couple – Karl and Elise

To recap the story, a body is discovered in the eerie utility tunnel that runs in tandem with the Eurostar lines under the Channel. It is placed exactly on the French/UK border, but because the deceased is a female French MP, Elise Wassermann (Clémence Poésy) claims it as a case for the French.

However, the grisly discovery that the corpse is cut in two and that the lower half belongs to a British prostitute, means the capitaine has to share the investigation with UK detective DCI Karl Roebuck (Stephen Dillane). If you remember, he’s fresh from a vasectomy owing to his track record of fathering five kids by three different women.

Parlez-vous Anglais?

Their first encounter in the tunnel is a gem. The French cops say as Karl and the rosbifs approach, It’s all right, the British speak French these days. And the first words out of Karl’s mouth are, ‘Parlez-vous Anglais?’

The cultural differences on top of the Elise’s Asberger’s-tinged personality, mean the drama has plenty of conflict built into it from the off.

Eurotunnel the body is found.Stephen Dillane as Karl, Tobi Bakare as Chuks. Sky Atlantic
Chuks and Karl at the Tunnel crime scene

Stephen Dillane, here a long way from the power-crazed Stannis Baratheon of Game of Thrones, is different to the bear-like Kim Bodnia in The Bridge – laddish, charming and funnier than his Swedish counterpart.

Elise is overshadowed by Karl

Clémence Poésy’s Elise doesn’t come off so well, her social ineptitude being fling at us all at once, so that she is not as fascinating or quirky as Sofia Helin’s Saga Noren in the original. It is as though the writers of The Tunnel assume the audience are familiar with the character and don’t bother to give us a chance to get to know her.

Saga was the star of The Bridge, but Elise is overshadowed in this opener by Karl. The Tunnel will
benefit if Elise is fleshed out better in the remaining episodes (it’s a 10-parter).

The plot is as bonkers as it is in The Bridge, with a crazed and unbelievably resourceful madman mounting his own terrorist campaign.

Sky Atlantic The Tunnel Episode 1.Stephen Dillane as Karl Roebuck, Angel Coulby
Stephen Dillane as Karl and Angel Coulby as his wife

The Tunnel is eerie and stunningly filmed

Where The Tunnel works well is in the culture-clash between the principal characters and in its tremendous atmosphere, with stunningly filmed night scenes of Calais’s Eurotunnel terminal and Folkestone, and eerie tracking shots along unmanned tunnels.

The Bridge is excellent – and the second series will be coming to BBC4 – but The Tunnel is a worthwhile and entertaining reboot of it. And Stephen Dillane’s cheeky performance alone is certainly worth an appointment for the next few weeks with the Tunnel vision.

Cast: Stephen Dillane Karl, Clémence Poésy Elise, Tom Bateman Danny, Joseph Mawle Stephen, Tobi Bakare Chuks, Mathieu Carriére Alain Joubert, Jeanne Balibar Charlotte, Alexander Hathaway Detective,  David G. Robinson French Detective, Karol Steele French Police Personnel, Paul Blackwell French police officer, Paul Dewdney Undercover Police, John Duggan Witness

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