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Archive for the ‘political’ Category

Turks & Caicos (2014)

In Action, Amazing, BBC, Crime, film, Law, new, political, Recommendation, Review, Spy on 22/03/2014 at 11:00 am

A great BBC Original spy thriller-drama with a cast so starry it’s hard to believe it’s only a telly production. Former MI5 agent Johnny/Tom Eliot (Bill Nighy) is trying to stay out of trouble on Turks & Caicos – a tropical tax haven – but fails miserably when he gets entangled in a CIA efforts lead by Curtis Pelissier (Christopher Walken) to catch some big-arse crooks. We’ve seen Nighy in many roles like this, but it’s hard to object as he does such a lovely job at being the well-mannered, understated and well-tailored Englishman.

When he fled from HM’s SS, he left behind the love of his life and also former spy Margot (Helena Bonham-Carter) – but his plight is bound to bring them back together. Meanwhile, Melanie (Winona Ryder) is in with the bad boys but the question is whether she wants to be. She’s all grown up, fragile, broken and seductive all at once. Back in the UK, Margot gets closer to Stirling Rogers (Rupert Graves, Sherlock) who is too rich and powerful not to be involved somehow, and also plays tennis with the PM, Alec Beasley (Ralph Fiennes), which gives rise to the question of his involvement in illegal financial thievery.

All the plots, schemes, power play and politics are made more interesting by the central notion of this story: humanity. Not once does this film degrade itself to plot-driven cops&robbers trickery. The island’s police force, Johnny, Margot and Johnny’s love, Melanie’s MO – they all boil down to a sense of ‘as long as there’s people like them in the world, we might be alright’.

Also, writer and director David Hare (The Reader, The Hours) made a film that blatantly says: tax havens are corrupt, dangerous, criminal snake-pits that use our tax payers’ money to enrich themselves and politicians involved. And it’s about time.

NB: No trailer available yet – here’s one for Original British Drama featuring some tasters.

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Peaky Blinders (2013)

In Amazing, BBC, Crime, new, period drama, political, Recommendation, Review, romantic, series, war on 21/10/2013 at 2:00 pm

We’re in Birmingham in the early 1920s, just after the Great War. It’s dirty, it’s poor, the boys have come back from the trenches – the lucky ones, and of course the weather is suitably grim. There’s a violent bunch with razors sewn into their flat caps (used to slash people’s eyes and faces) called the Peaky Blinders who rule the town – in a Mafia kind of way. Other enemies of justice include the IRA and communists.

The Peaky Blinders are led by the captivating Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy) – hardened and still tortured by the war, proud, silent, clever, handsome and more things that will make you fall in love with this bad guy hero. The antagonist is the supposed good guy CI Campbell (Sam Neill), a disagreeable Irish policeman; stubborn, rigid, set in his ways and devastatingly lonely in the end. Then there’s a pearl of perfect understatement called Grace (Annabelle Wallis), the Irish girl who makes Shelby/Murphy shine even more. Not  to forget the indestructible aunt Polly (Helen McCrory) who could probably lead an army and nurse a dozen children all at once.

This latest Beeb series is indeed stunning, suspenseful, a bit polished but not careful and absolutely original. As for historical significance – the real Peaky Blinders’ history in a bit vague and convoluted, but the sentiments of the era – about heroism vs cowardice, the role of women, communism, loyalty etc. –  are well represented, which is exactly the role fiction should play.

There’s a couple of cock-ups as well – hey, nothing’s perfect – the casting of Winston Churchill is ridiculous and the accents are a bit sloppy. It also leans on its protagonist quite heavily, but I dare say that’s hardly a bad thing.

The Wipers Times (2013)

In BBC, film, Giggles, period drama, political, Recommendation, Review on 18/09/2013 at 10:34 am

Inappropriate jokes can save lives, metaphorically and sometimes literally.

The Wipers Times was a satirical paper printed in the Belgian town Ypres (pronounced wipers, obviously) by British soldiers in the trenches during the Great War. When Fred Roberts (Ben Chaplin) and his 24th division stumble upon an old printing press, starting their own paper is an outlandish idea – but then, not much is making sense any more anyway. None of them are writers or journalists, but they are more than a bit clever with words, and oh do they make them sing.

There’s nothing at all funny about the endless, desperate, muddy and bloody Great War, and that’s why the distractions of the Wipers Times were vital. Ian Hislop, editor of today’s favourite satirical rag Private Eye, and Nick Newman did an amazing job writing this for the BBC, and all the cast, but especially Ben Chaplin and Julian Rhind-Tutt, were incredibly human and lovely to watch despite the misery taking place around them.

The Wipers Times is an entertaining, very funny, heartwarming, educational and well balanced bit of historical drama.

Utopia (2013)

In Amazing, Crime, future, new, political, Recommendation, Review, Spy on 27/02/2013 at 8:50 pm

This thrilling drama tells a story that questions the powers that be and the reality we live in, and it does so with sound and visuals so new to TV drama and so powerful that it’s actually interesting.

The first episode of this new Channel 4 drama had me completely enthralled because I had no clue what it was about, yet I couldn’t wait to know more. The second episode clarifies all, which could lead to feeling like being smacked in the face, but then it’s all balanced out in the following parts of the story. The violence in Utopia is so unreasonable that at first I feared it was just a failed attempt at imitating a Tarantino film, but as the story progresses it comes together and it turns out it’s a well considered part of the plot.

As with any plot driven story, the question is: have they managed to make the characters more than just vehicles for the plot? Are they messy, confused human beings driven by odd thoughts and random emotions, like real ones? And I think, most of the time, they are. A couple of exceptions aside where the balance between (essential) humour and downright clumsiness is lost.  As for the plot itself, it’s a good variation on a well known theme: how a wish for a perfect world, in hands of few with too much power, has the potential to destroy society. A perpetual fear that storytellers use creatively, and keeps the audience on its toes.

Utopia is very good entertainment with a chunk of evergreen societal relevance.

 

Black Mirror (2011-)

In Amazing, future, new, political, Recommendation, series on 17/02/2013 at 5:19 pm

The acclaimed dystopian tales by Charlie Brooker have come to life again as three new episodes are broadcast on Channel 4 this February 2013. It’s tricky to say something about Black Mirror as a whole because every episode takes place in a different near-future reality, with new characters and cast and a different premise every time. But the general idea is: it’s pretty amazing, go watch it now.

Black Mirror deals with phenomena that are close to our daily lives today, and mainly with the consequences of ever more elaborate and intrusive technology. Every episode could possibly come true – making Black Mirror more speculative fiction than science fiction. The immense social and personal effects of, for example, everybody having implants so they record absolutely everything they see and do, are the focal point of the stories. Plot driven stories that are character driven by narration, that’s what sets Black Mirror apart from most other speculative storytelling. Good acting helps too, by the way.

Brooker does allow for a certain dose of outrageous ideas in most episodes, making the series distinctly dystopian – a doomed vision of reality that is just as unlikely to come true as utopia. Extrapolating probable phenomena (ie keeping the dead alive through software) and making them definite shows us a worst case scenario that is still utterly credible.

Anyway, it’s very well done.  Here’s a trailer for series 1.

Restless (2012)

In based on novel, BBC, Crime, new, period drama, political, Recommendation, Review, romantic, Spy, war on 29/12/2012 at 2:13 pm

Spies, I do love spy stories. WWII ones best. And Restless, adapted from the William Boyd novel by William Boyd himself, is a great two-part Christmas treat.

The story starts in the 1970s when seemingly ordinary and seemingly English mum Sally (Charlotte Rampling) reveals her secret past and identity to her daughter Ruth (Michelle Dockery) because she believes someone is trying to kill her. We then go back to where it all started: Paris in the 1930s and on until Sally’s spy story ends during the war, catching up with ongoings in ‘present day’ 1970s in the meantime. Double period drama, and the 1940s definitely wins ten times over on aesthetics.

Young Sally, or Eva, or whatever other assumed name she had when working for the British security services, is enchantingly played by Hayley Atwell. Her boss Lucas Romer (Rufus Sewel) is intriguing, seductive, dangerous and comforting all in one – and the story in the past unfolding simultaneously with the present keeps you interested in both throughout. There are some glitches in the plot, for example: if someone wanted and old woman dead, why didn’t they just go ahead and kill her? There are more little things that just don’t add up and it does stand out in a spy drama. But then, the story of the young Eva/Sally is otherwise so engaging that it’s easily forgiven.

 

 

The Politician’s Wife (1995)

In political, Recommendation, Review, series on 13/10/2012 at 11:07 pm

So, not all drama made in the 1990s was mediocre, this 3 part Channel 4 diamond proves it. Also, do you remember what mobile phones looked like back then? And the hair – please can we never have the hairdos back. Please.

Frolicking aside – The Politician’s Wife is the enthralling story of Flora (Juliet Stevenson) and what happens after her conservative MP husband Duncan (Trevor Eve) becomes the focal point of a political sex scandal: apparently he was shagging a former escort (in the tempting shape of Minnie Driver). It’s a simple starting point, but don’t be fooled. Flora isn’t a simple character and Stevenson admirably makes her profound and real. What follows is lots of political intrigue and even more power play, set against the society and the politics of the time. The well written plot engages throughout, and Flora is just ordinary enough to relate to and out-of-the-ordinary enough to then baffle, then amaze.

The Politician’s Wife also digs quite deeply into the intimate workings of the Conservative Party, which if you’re anything like me, is quite interesting because I generally fail to understand the relationship between said party and actual human beings.

The Politician’s Wife is available on 4od, DVD and on YouTube in full. Sorry to say there is no trailer for it.

 

Parade’s End (2012)

In based on novel, BBC, new, period drama, political, Recommendation, Review, romantic, series, war on 27/09/2012 at 7:49 pm

In case you hadn’t heard yet, the Beeb just did a little bit of what’s the Beeb’s terribly good at: make a superb historical drama. It stars brilliant actors, mainly Rebecca Hall and Benedict Cumberbatch, and involves the Great War, Tories and Suffragettes.

Neither the horrors of the war or the politics of the time make this 5 part drama worth watching for me. They are valuable ingredients, but not what make Parade’s End original, and maybe even remarkable. I have no idea if the novel of the same title by Ford Madox Ford features equally compelling protagonists – judging by this raving review the book is very much worth the read – but oh, they are compelling alright. Sylvia (Hall) and Christopher (Cumberbatch) are an unlikely couple strapped together by a racy moment of passion. Christopher in every sense represents conservatism: he is a brilliant man with stern values and morals. He sticks to his principles, which are built on morals. He is too ‘good’ for his own good. His unlucky wife Sylvia is the opposite. She represents everything he’s afraid of: she celebrates unbridled charm, wit and passion. She is easily bored, prone to sarcasm and hungry for love. Her husband’s love. Her provocations and tricks to gain his affections, however, push him away. The two grow distant, but long for each other. Christopher falls for a neat young girl who, even though she has terribly modern views being a Suffragette, awakens a passion that his wife seems to have killed in him. And thus the story continues.

Christopher and Sylvia are the estranged couple nobody wants to become. They torment each other throughout, and I was left desperately wanting them to cut their charades, to end their parades, and bloody get on with it and love each other. This is personal, and my favouring Sylvia’s capricious character over the in my view yawn-inducing Suffragette Valentine Wannop (Adelaide Clemens) probably says more about me than about this story. That’s why I think it’s an engaging and persuasive watch.

 

Blackout (2012)

In Amazing, BBC, Crime, new, political, Recommendation, Review, series on 30/07/2012 at 11:07 am

This summer the BBC treated us to an intriguing, complex and very interesting drama series about a drunk city councillor who probably accidentally murdered someone during an alcohol-induced blackout and somehow ends up becoming mayor.

This three-part drama starts off with the personal: Daniel Demoys (Christopher Eccleston) ruining himself and hurting his family with booze-abuse, corruption and an affair. It’s immediately compelling and has the tension of a crime/thriller drama as the plot reveals only snippets of the murder, the affair and the illicit city council transactions. The story then smoothly develops into a political thriller when interests and relationships surrounding the people involved reveal themselves. Demoys is catapulted back into reality when he finds he (probably) murdered someone and his determination to redeem himself is not at all straightforward, and therefore all the more human. Without spoilers: his motives are questionable, yet he’s righteous. He wants to do good, but he isn’t a good man, and he doesn’t claim to be. And then the political questions: can a bad person be a good mayor? And can a good mayor give the city back to the people, even if the powers-that-be work against him?

Lots of interesting ambiguity here, full of riveting characters thanks to the likes of Adrew Scott (Moriarty in Sherlock),  Dervla Kirwan, MyAnna Buring (Kill List), Branca Katic and Ewen Bremmer.

Minor point of critique: the series is set in an anonymous metropolis that, filmed from above, looks like NYC due to the grid street plan. Yet the story is obviously British, making it appear a bit silly to beat around the bush: they should’ve set it in London.

 

 

 

 

The Devil’s Whore (2008)

In period drama, political, Recommendation, Review, romantic, series, war on 17/03/2012 at 10:21 pm

A Channel 4 miniseries told from the perspective of the fictional Angelica Fanshawe (Andrea Risenborough) during the turbulent years of Oliver Cromwell’s wars and reign (1642-1660). Even though this period in British history is far too interesting to use as a background situation, that is exactly what happens. Nevertheless, the drama is quite stunning and it’s a beautifully made, highly engaging four-part historical drama.

There’s some amazing acting going on here, the most interesting character being Edward Sexby (John Simm: Life on Mars, Exile), here more lonesome mercenary than the Leveller he was known to be, who silently falls in love with Angelica when she is about to marry for the first time at seventeen. He remains near to her, never interfering or admitting why he does it and he goes more or less unnoticed for years. Meanwhile, protagonist Angelica loses her best friend by marrying him and struggles to be the submissive wife society wants her to be.

This is also the general theme of the drama, and it was slightly criticised for making Angelica too modern. Despite any questions about how a woman in her position may or may not have felt, acted and loved, her character is very credible. The series gets its name from Angelica supposedly rejecting God when she is a child, and the Devil is a recurring figure in her adult life. She is accused of being a prostitute or otherwise immoral throughout – not a spectacular part of the plot – but it does create lots of tension.

The starry cast of this production further includes Michael Fassbender as Thomas Rainsborough – an influential Leveller and in this series Angelica’s second husband – Dominic West (The Hour) as Oliver Cromwell,  the much praised performance of Peter Capaldi as Charles I and Maxine Peak (Silkand Tom Goodman-Hill as Elizabeth and John Lilburne, a famous Leveller and Quaker.

The personal relationships between the historical figures have been fumbled with a little, but the general historical lines remain intact. As a dramatical effort this miniseries succeeds, but as a story based on facts it lacks substance, mainly in the political sense. Oliver Cromwell is shown to be only ruthless, which he was, to be sure – but we also know that his efforts were a continuous internal struggle. He desperately wanted Parliamentary rule, and justified the bloodshed he caused with a belief in the greater good for all. When his Parliament made a right corrupt mess of it all and Cromwell became Lord Protector, he did so with anguish. In The Devil’s Whore, Cromwell is only too keen to rule himself as King, and I think that’s a bit off. Otherwise, The Devil’s Whore is a worthy contribution to the broad array of British historical television dramas.

A link to a clip for lack of an embeddable trailer.