March 28th, 2011

breaking bad

The Eagle

I went with my kids to see The Eagle, a film based on Rosemary Sutcliffe's The Eagle of the Ninth. I was a big fan of Sutcliffe when I was a little girl, though I have forgotten most of the detail of what she wrote.

The first part of this film was pretty solid: new centurion turns up at a fort, establishes himself, is wounded. It was like a 1950s western - you know, sensible and passable. Once the plot got going though, once the centurion and his slave boy venture north of Hadrian's Wall to reclaim the eagle standard, it all got exceptionally silly. Grown-up people would have plans and communicate them to each other. I also felt there was a kind of projection of modern western colonial privilege, but to examine this in any depth would be over-thinking it.

Part of the problem is that Channing Tatum is quite handsome but not too good an actor. The slashy story was ladled on by the hand of Marketing, and there was no chemistry. Before the film began there was some spurious 'Hollywood interview' with the lead actors and they were all 'I've totally got a man crush on him... it says here in my press notes'. Really, if you have to do this, do it with some conviction.

I don't want to be a total bitch, even though I am :-) Those who like Merlin and Robin Hood might well like this. I am guessing. It really isn't the thing for me.

Oh, the visual design was very good actually. I don't know if they brought in a team who are used to working together, or relied on one talented guy.
breaking bad

Forbrydelsen: No spoilers

The 20-part Danish murder mystery, The Killing, finished this week on BBC4. It has become a cult show among trendy liberal Guardian-reading types like me. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Now I know whodunnit but you can read this review without fear of spoilers. The Americanised version will begin airing on AMC, my favourite US station, next Sunday Evening in the coveted Breaking Bad/ Mad Men/ Walking Dead slot. This has never let me down yet, hope they don't blow it. I think the plot is slightly different, so you can watch one without spoiling the other.

Each hour-long episode followed 24 hours (8pm-8pm) of the police investigation of a murder of a young girl. There are three interlinked stories: the girl's parents coping with their grief and its effect on their relationship, the police investigation, and its impact on a liberal politician standing for mayor of Copenhagen. At the very start it is revealed that his campaign car was used to move the body, and it is unclear to what extent he or his team were involved. All three strands were very well written and acted. The overall appearance of the show is visually dark and intense, this is another consistently good aspect of the show.

The best character, among many good characters, is the chief investigator, Sarah Lund. She is tough, obsessively single-minded about the investigation, and rather hard to get on with. I hope she isn't made more feminine or likable (conventionally feminine and likable I mean) in the US version, but in any case that won't alter the excellent performance we have here.

If I have a reservation it is that the powerful forward impetus of the show was partly created by mysteries and red herrings. I am not sure how the 20 hours will stand up to repeat viewing, now that much of that suspense and curiosity is satisfied. Some shows need to be seen fresh and sequential - the first one or two seasons of 24 were like that, though this is better all round. Intellectually it was intricate: by the end of episode 18 there were at least 6 possible resolutions, all compatible with the extensive evidence and human reactions we had seen. At a couple of points in the last few episodes plot strands were closed off slightly ruthlessly by deux ex machina interventions out of nowhere. But these are small reservations. I will try to view it all again from the start and see how it holds up.

Overall, it is extremely high quality TV. The scene where the detective realises who the killer is - so easily an anti-climax after so many episodes - was intense and emotional. The bitter-sweet open-ended resolution of the three storylines and the human characterisation was exceptional. Forbrydelsen II is on BBC4 later in the year, and I hope it is as good.

Guardian TV review of the final episode (no spoilers).
Guardian blog of the final episode (major spoilers).