mon 23/05/2022

Witch Hunt, All 4 review - dark deeds and dirty money | reviews, news & interviews

Witch Hunt, All 4 review - dark deeds and dirty money

Witch Hunt, All 4 review - dark deeds and dirty money

A tangled web of power, skulduggery and lies

Who's playing whom? Jan Gunnar Askeland (Preben Hodneland) has designs on Birgitte (Caroline Glomnes)

When business and politics collide, the result may very well be corruption. Such is the case in this taut, streamlined thriller from Norway, one of many gems from the Walter Presents stable.

Ida Waage (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, pictured below) is the Chief Financial Officer at Oslo law firm Biermann & Gude. A diligent wife and mother and a level-headed professional, she seems the perfect fit for this seemingly exemplary and prestigious outfit. However, when she’s asked to pay an invoice for 450,000 kroner to a company called Klant Consulting, which supposedly Biermann & Gude don’t do any business with, she smells a rat. When promises from her boss Jan Gunnar Askeland (Preben Hodneland) that he will supply her with authenticating paperwork come to nothing, Ida begins to have serious doubts about what’s going on in her company.

It’s the start of a twisty and increasingly sinister trail that will lead into the upper echelons of Norwegian politics and reveal a web of money laundering and secretive business arrangements hidden in various international jurisdictions. Pulling most of the strings is business tycoon Peer Eggen (Mads Ousdal, pictured below), a ruthless manipulator and deal-maker whose big-ticket activities account for over half of B&G’s revenues. He’s the target of a government tax investigation, which his highly-remunerated law firm is expected to extricate him from. His wealth and influence mean he has many political connections, and he has successfully lured Justice Minister Anette Nordeide (Ellen Birgitte Winther) to the dark side.

But what especially impresses about Witch Hunt – or Heksejakt, as they say in Norway – is how public events and financial and legal machinations are seamlessly knitted into the personal stories of the protagonists. The way the various dimensions of the narrative swirl and blend together to serve the whole is an exemplary display of finely-grained screenwriting from Anna Bach-Wiig and Siv Rajendram Eliasson. Ida’s personal trajectory finds her being forced to reevaluate how she sees her professional identity when the codes that have guided her suddenly seem meaningless. She’s torn between speaking out and doing the “right” thing and having her career blown to smithereens, or keeping quiet to save her job and her family life.

As Ida feels the pressure building inexorably, she finds herself in the orbit of a couple of other lone wolves. Aida Salim (Sara Khorani) is an aspiring young business journalist, fired by a crusading zeal to unearth corruption and malfeasance (Eggen being one of her prime targets). She pushes too hard and she takes it too far, but it’s her almost insane recklessness that finally brings results, albeit at considerable personal cost. Typically, her bosses at Today’s Business are happy to let her do the spade work on her stories, but when the game gets rough they’re suddenly not standing behind her any more.

That theme is echoed in Ida’s predicament at work. Fearing she's about to blow the whistle, her bosses cynically invent workplace harassment charges against her, and bribe Iranian employee Pedram (Nader Khademi) with a partnership if he’ll accuse Ida of racial discrimination. At least Jan Gunnar gets a taste of his own medicine when Birgitte (Caroline Glomnes) uses his own leering sexual advances against him to secure herself a promotion. This is scarcely the ideal way to run a company, but these issues are presented in Witch Hunt with a sense of cold-blooded realism, saying “this is what it’s like” rather than delivering a sermon on equal opportunities in the workplace.

Aida boldly advances her investigations by striking up a useful liaison with Eirik Bråthen (Fridtjov Såheim), an investigator from the Economic Crime Authority. A world-weary gumshoe from a broken marriage, Bråthen also knows Eggen is a wrong’un, but the Crime Authority doesn’t have enough resources to really pile in on the case, while his boss Karianne (Ingunn Beate Øyen) is too browbeaten to risk the wrath of the wealthy and powerful. Aida helps Eirik get the evidence but they cross the line, blowing a fatal hole in their case.

It’s a fast and fulfilling ride across its eight episodes, building to a climax which again prizes plausibility over melodrama. You’ll never trust a lawyer again (if you ever did).

'Witch Hunt' builds to a climax which prizes plausibility over melodrama

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Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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