Monday, December 27, 2010
Written by Paul Abbott
Directed by David Yates
Starring John Simm, Kelly Macdonald, Bill Nighy, David Morrissey, Polly Walker, Marc Warren
Follows one newspaper's investigation into two seemingly unconnected deaths, one a young black finagler and one a research assistant for an up-and-coming MP (who was having an affair with that MP).
This is a six-hour BBC miniseries; and in Britain when you have a show that's an hour long it is actually 57 minutes.
fantastic!!! this is just yet another example of why british tv rocks tocks. six episodes of a mystery that just keeps on giving. i just wrote for fifteen minutes about this and then it was lost. so now all i'm going to say is this was way better than i can imagine the movie is. cutting four hours out of a mystery that gives for every minute. i can't see it working. WATCH THIS! fuck russel crowe. and what i had written before was funnier mourn the loss of it.
Jumping into the action with an inexplicable murder of a relatively unimportant person and flowing easily into the next case, we were hooked by the second scene in one of the back rooms of Parliament. As the narrative shifts between groups of characters before settling for the most part on the newsroom the sense is always one of purpose. The production finds just the right note between gritty reality show and polished film. The level of tension is pitch-perfect for the duration of the story.
At its essence this is the story of six fairly intelligent people working more than full-time to figure out an extremely complicated situation, but in the entire runtime the viewer doesn't feel left behind. There are no diversions, only things which take longer to connect. We get some real details into how the investigation works and how the reporters manipulate people and situations to get at facts. The piece doesn't shy away from the gray areas associated with the case and as the story continues to unfold each character conveys his or her standpoint on the multidimensional field ethics and morality.
Witnessing their successes and defeats I found myself as giddy or frustrated as if I were a member of a team perfectly assembled from the seemingly endless talent pool available to the BBC. Bill Nighy's editor has the best barbs and (political correctness aside) is an actual manager. Looking back at how he manipulates his staff in their varying levels of professionalism it's easy to see an overall strategy as he plays them against political machinations which only he can see.
At the conclusion of this masterwork we were left utterly satisfied. Six hours of material and nary a missed moment. The only question I still have is: Who the fuck thought they could turn this into a two-hour Hollywood movie? Oh yeah, Russell Crowe.