'The Girl from Oslo', Netflix’s terror-kidnap kitsch is infuriating in its infantility

The Girl From Oslo, the original Norwegian title Bortført, is a 10-part mess masquerading as a thriller about a girl who is taken hostage while holidaying in Egypt

'The Girl from Oslo', Netflix’s terror-kidnap kitsch is infuriating in its infantility
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Subhash K Jha

The Girl From Oslo, the original Norwegian title Bortført, is a 10-part mess masquerading as a thriller about a girl who is taken hostage while holidaying in Egypt.

Loud clunky acting, plot twists that can be predicted by a 4-year old with a phone in his hand (“But Mama, why would anyone go holidaying to a dangerous place like Sinai?”) and performances that go from glib to exuberant without batting an eyelid…the sheer mediocrity of the presentation is overpowering, more so than any effort to rescue the kidnap victims.

There are actually three kidnap victims--Shira Yosef, Andrea Berntzen and Daniel Litman—and the mother of two of them, siblings, seems far more affected than Pia’s weirdly placid mother. But somehow the title of the series suggests the series is all about the Oslo girl Pia (Andrea Berntzen) who must be rescued at any cost. Do the other two lives matter less?

There certainly seems a more interesting political plot behind the making of this Norwegian-Israeli co-production—good to look at but no real substance beneath the cosmetic appeal—than what we see on screen.

And what do we see? Actors trying hard to look involved as Pia is taken through the Sinai desert by a terror group. The biggest letdown is the main protagonist, Pia’s mother Alex, played by Anneke von der Lippe. What the role needed was the dramatic force of Helen Mirren, (the late) Katherine Hepburn or Shabana Azmi. What it gets is an actress who seems to suffer an emotional blockage. Maybe Alex is too shell-shocked after her daughter’s abduction to show any genuine emotions?

Maybe. But we cannot make excuses for what we don’t see while the drama unfolds. We are given to respond only to what we do see. And what we see are some terrible twists in the plot made worse by actors who couldn’t care less. For example, Pia turns out to be the biological daughter of a powerful Israeli politician Arik (Amos Tamam, a vacuous version of Pierce Brosnan), a well-groomed negotiator showing no real involvement in the kidnap case even after the BIG revelation which is spilled out by Alex with nettling nonchalance as though she was talking about of indigestion.


Apparently, while the historic Oslo Accords were on in 1993 Pia’s mother and Arik were making their own peace efforts in bed.

The series is filled with unintentional LOL moments. It makes you wonder how such a scrappy serial could be served upon such a sensitive political issue. The plot is not just designed to offer dinnertime hijinks, it is also dangerously self-congratulatory. While Pia’s mother is in Israel running from pillar to post trying to find a solution, her father in Oslo decides to fight the case for the hardcore terrorist whom Pia’s kidnappers want released.

“If it wasn’t for my daughter I’d have throttled you with my bare hands,” Pia’s father growls at the smirking terrorist.

This is the problem with The Girl From Oslo. All bark, no bite. All spark, but nothing right.

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