The Saboteurs Review
aka The Heavy Water Wars
The Saboteurs refashions the classic film The Heroes of Telemark into a more expansive, multi-national look at the efforts to prevent the Nazis from achieving nuclear capabilities.The Norwegian-Danish-British production, originally – and probably more aptly – titled The Heavy Water Wars, tackles the World War II-set subject matter from a number of different viewpoints, focussing on the progression of German scientists on nuclear research; the running of the heavy water production plant in Norway; the survival efforts of a group of largely isolated Norwegian commandos who were sent as an advance party to make preparations for attacks on the plant; and the British contingent – frequently shouted at by the Americans – who repeatedly attempt to stop the German efforts.As the war takes a greater and greater toll on the countries and individuals involved, all sides get increasingly desperate to achieve their end game, with the fate of the world in the balance. Although, with the benefit of hindsight, the threat of Germany becoming a nuclear power was probably a little further off than intelligence services thought at the time, this oft-fictionalised charting of the events during this period still makes for decent 6-part TV mini-series entertainment, and we have to remember that – at the time – this was considered one of the most important missions in the entire war effort.
Using a blend of nationalities to populate the mini-series helps achieve an authenticity rarely seen, even these days, and the series does well to forge a reasonable depth of characterisations for all factions involved, right down to the strains on the families involved. With a strong supporting role for Brit actress Anna Friel, engaging as the ‘Agent Carter’ contingent of the British war effort, The Saboteurs may not deliver the same visceral impact as its filmic predecessor, but nevertheless paints a broader picture with reasonable skill.
This is not the first adaptation of this particular chapter in WWII and, by the looks of it, it won't be the last.
Interestingly a number of high profile directors have been interested in a film adaptation of this subject matter, from Spielberg to Michael Bay, to even Quentin Tarantino, although more likely to come to fruition is a touted Danny Boyle series for US channel FX. In the meantime, this is a solid, well-made look behind the key events.
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