THE BORDER (2014)
Polish Language with English Subtitles
THE BORDER is released on DVD on Monday 5th September by Nordic Noir & Beyond
When a group of Polish border guards are killed in an explosion at a log cabin, sole survivor Captain Rebrow is suspected of being behind the attack. With his friends and girlfriend Ewa victims of the blast, Rebrow maintains his innocence whilst himself investigating into who the culprits behind the bomb attack are. Could it be the threatened settled smugglers Metro or Kalita getting revenge or could there be a darker reason for their deaths?
HBO Poland series THE BORDER is a six-part TV series focusing on the lives of the human trafficking division of the Polish border guard who are in charge of the Bieszczady Mountains Polish/Ukrainian border. Whilst the major plot running throughout the series is that of the person(s) responsible for the fatal blast, the viewer gets to spend quite a lot of time with the border guard officers and see what they get up to during their working day. From chasing scents with Osama the German Shepherd and dog handler Rambo to rescuing children being smuggled across the border, the team sees it all. One of my favourite scenes from the series features Captain Rebrow taking rookie guard Aga on her first day out on patrol where they unexpectedly encounter a brown bear! The woodlands is teeming with wildlife and I feel that the series does a great job in portraying life working in this stunningly beautiful but deadly environment where nature can provide its own dangers easily enough.
Instead of taking everyone at face value, THE BORDER allows the viewer to get to know the characters it presents us with, not just Rebrow and the other border guards but also the female inspector Iga Dobosz, who’s working for the DA’s office investigating the bomb attack, as well as saw mill owner and smuggler Kalita. Like a game of Cluedo, we, the viewer, must try and work out who is behind the attack if not Rebrow and why they would want to kill a group of BG agents. This guessing game slowly unravels throughout the series as more truths are revealed about certain characters. One minute you’ll have suspicions on one character then the next minute you’ll be convinved they’re innocent. Whilst the momentum of the plot is rather gradual, the unique set of characters keeps the interest piqued, particularly that of border guard Natalia who’s struggling to separate her emotions from her job, particularly in the case of children being trafficked.
Taking inspiration from Nordic Noir titles, THE BORDER dips its toes into some dark places but unfortunately as the series winds up, none of our questions are really answered. Instead, the finale leaves the door wide open with its lack of a proper ending leaving viewers itching for a second season which is supposedly on the cards. Providing a second season comes to fruition, then I look forward to where this establishing series could lead but in the event that a second series isn’t commissioned then it leaves THE BORDER as an unsatisfying mini-series that had potential yet didn’t deliver. That’s not to say this is a weak series. THE BORDER has many strengths including the stunning location and its window into the world of the border guards. However, a lack of real depth, which to be honest cannot be explored in six less-than-an-hour episodes, leaves the viewer wanting that bit more. It’s unfulfilling in a way which is a shame as the series has shown promise. If a second season is produced, then I believe that it could lead into gritty territory indeed which is where the real meat of the story will be.
With decent performances throughout, THE BORDER shows it can challenge Nordic Noir seasons with its authentic locations that suck the viewer into its world though it still requires improvement in the structure and plot department to reach the majestic heights of the clever, multi-layered Nordic crime thrillers.