War Sailor Season 1 Review – A gritty story soaked in melancholy and the ultimate test of friendship

Season 1

Episode Guide

Episode 1 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 4/5


War Sailor is yet another worthy television series set in WWII from Norway. Earlier this year, Netflix hosted another similarly paced and plotted Norwegian film called Narvik. Although War Sailor is fashioned in the form of a television series, it was released originally as a feature film.

Some parts have been reworked and some new parts have been added, but the majority of War Sailor is reproduced as is, which makes the experience more authentic.

The series centres around Norway’s unwitting and unwilling participation in WWII, especially its naval merchant ships. Freddy (Kristoff Joner), a family man, takes a sailor’s job before the war begins with his best friend Sigbjorn (Pal Sverre Hagen).

That is when the war begins in 1941. He and thousands of other Norwegians have to wait years to learn their fate, which is out of their hands. The tragic war uprooted many homes and destroyed umpteen families but War Sailor makes a strong case for those who got involved unjustly and non-consensually. Even though the Netflix series is holistically about Norway, it more specifically plants the narrative seeds on an individual level to accentuate its hardened character study.

The series can be described as slow-moving at best in terms of pacing. Even though there is a lot of action in the form of bombings and torpedoes, the metaphysical longings about war are primarily featured in War Sailor. These quiet moments are not so much ponderings and pensive thoughts as they are the incredulity of the circumstance. This is the reason that they are so pivotal to the film and underline the point it is trying to make. As a viewer, our task is to go along for the ride and see where we end up.

In hindsight, War Sailor prevails due to these very moments of tranquil between U-Boats blowing up merchant ships and air raids blowing houses to pieces. All the characters are so very into the moment that they are suffering together that the viewer also becomes invested in their struggles. There is no jumping ahead and waiting for the war to clear up to start a new life. The makers provide much-needed clarity to the narrative with well-established motives for the participants to make it out alive and know what they will get back home to.

Kristoffer Joner’s haunting portrayal of Freddy brings nuance to the storytelling. As it centres around his character, there is depth and gravitas in how it fluctuates through the trough and crests. Joner makes it easier for the viewer to follow him like Freddy does to those under his command.

War Sailor remains level-headed and without histrionics irrespective of what happens because of being so closely bound to Freddy. The emotional richness in Joner’s eyes as he reads about what happened in the Bergen bombing in 1944 is the highlight of the series.

Very few actors have used the platform of war to produce such a hauntingly authentic role. But despite that, each episode sort of has its own narrative language and presents different avenues to surface. The final episode marks the ultimate test of friendship for Sigbjorn’s character and Freddy’s family. That complex morality is as tough to fathom as it is to create but the makers do a great job in this regard.

War Sailor is quite an expensive production by Norwegian standards. One can instantly appreciate the scale at which the sets were built and an experience was created with no qualms. The towering ships, costumes, and special effects are soundly marked up to give us a premium experience.

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk seems to be a major inspiration for filming the scenes at sea, and when you follow a footprint of such a unique visual voice, you seldom go wrong. War Sailor, despite its intensely political premise, remains apolitical throughout its runtime too. Even when it has the chance to cajole viewers with indignant rants about Norway’s participation, the series does not.

The lack of specificity makes the underlying messaging very humane and universal. The nature of themes of family, friendship, and survival is so primal that the structure could fit in any context. War Sailor is a sublime effort executed with heart and compassion for its historical subject matter. Productions about war and what it does to man do not come much better than this one.

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  • Verdict - 9/10

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