What is War Sailor about? Netflix series explained

A still from War Sailor on NetflixNetflix

War Sailor, a new Norwegian World War II drama, dropped on Netflix over the weekend – here’s what it’s about, if it’s based on a true story, who’s in its cast, and if it’s worth watching.

Off the back of All Quiet on the Western Front winning four Oscars from nine nominations, it’s clear that Netflix is a force to be reckoned with in the war genre.

Just look at its roster: Da 5 Bloods, Outlaw King, War Machine, Narvik, Beasts of No Nation, The Siege of Jadotville, Sand Castle, and Mosul, among many others.

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War Sailor, a new series based on true stories of Norwegian sailors and their families during the Second World War, is out now – so, here’s what you need to know.

What is War Sailor about?

War Sailor is a three-part limited series following two sailors who unwittingly join the war effort as WWII erupts, facing “brutal conditions as they fight to survive a conflict they were never asked to join.”

Check out the trailer below:

The official synopsis reads: “Alfred Garnes is a working-class sailor, who has recently become the father of a third child. He and his childhood friend Sigbjørn Kvalen are working on a merchant ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean when World War II breaks out.

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“They are unarmed civilians on the front lines of a war they never asked to join. The two men struggle for survival in a spiral of violence and death, where at any moment German submarines may attack their valuable vessels. The war sailors have one goal: to survive, and to return home.

“Meanwhile, Alfred’s wife Cecilia struggles through the war alone in Bergen, raising three children on her own, not knowing whether she will ever see Alfred again.

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“When British aircrafts attempt to bomb the German submarine bunker in Bergen, they instead hit the primary school at Laksevåg and civilian homes at Nøstet, resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths. When the news reaches Alfred and Wally in Canada, they wonder if they have anything left at home to return to.”

Is War Sailor based on a true story?

Yes – while the characters in the series are fictional, their story is based on the lives of Norway’s merchant sailors and their families.

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Writer-director Gunnar Vikene told Deadline: “I met these sailors when I was 13. My father was a painter, and they were his colleagues. They were self-medicating with alcohol and very traumatized. We were painting a flour silo, and one of them took his shirt off and was walking around the edge, 60 meters from ground. He was playing with his life.

“I couldn’t understand why he was doing it. But then my father told me he had been torpedoed twice and seen so many horrors. It got to me, and since I have family members who sailed, I started collecting these stories.”

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War Sailor cast: Who’s in it?

The War Sailor cast includes:

  • Kristoffer Joner as Alfred aka Freddy
  • Pål Sverre Hagen as Sigbjørn aka Wally
  • Ine Marie Wilmann as Cecilia
  • Henrikke Lund-Olsen as Magdeli
  • Arthur Hakalahti as Braathen
  • Alexandra Gjerpen as Hanna
  • Leon Tobias Slettbakk as Aksel

Joner is known for having starred in Mission Impossible: Fallout, The Wave, and The Revenant. As soon as Vikene’s words hit the page, he knew he wanted Joner.

A still of the cast of War Sailor on NetflixNetflix

“Well, I often do. I made my first feature film with him [2002’s Falling Sky] and he’s been my friend for over 20 years,” he told The Wrap.

“When I wrote this script, I knew it would be very physically and mentally demanding for the actor. So I was somewhat afraid that this would affect the friendship between Kristoffer and I. But it worked out. I think he’s in a class by himself. He worked so hard for it. He’s very powerful.”

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Is War Sailor worth watching?

While there’s no Rotten Tomatoes score for War Sailor, it has received several positive reviews.

The Hollywood Reporter wrote: “War Sailor is above all a poignant salute to the Allied civilian sailors that served honorably but often were denied the same rights as enlisted military in the years after World War II, their lack of uniforms and medals unjustly diminishing their sacrifices. It’s a film of deep sadness that stays with you.”

Decider recommended its readers stream it, “but only if you think you can slog through the grim first two episodes of War Sailors. The sailors’ postwar experiences feel like they’ll be way more interesting than what they went through during the war.”

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However, Deadline was more critical in its review, writing: “Everyone, in short, has given their all, only to skim the surface of this saga. As the credits roll, there is a sad sense that a little less could have been so much more.”

War Sailor is available to stream on Netflix now.

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