|Index||5 reviews in total|
Ken Branagh has been around for so long one is surprised to see him
still playing a semi- romantic role. Then it is remembered how very
young he was when he burst into prominence with his **Henry V**--a role
he now owns after appropriating it from no less a figure than Olivier.
Sweden remains a quite sparsely populated country with a good deal of open space. This is excellently exploited in this three-part series set in the province of Skane in the southwest of Sweden. Some of the cinematography is Bergmanesque, capturing the bleak beauty of the region.
Each program begins with the musical theme "Nostalgia", sung with affecting sadness by Emily Barker of the group Red Clay Halo from Australia.
As a provincial detective with personal issues, Branagh captures the Scandinavian melancholy like a junior Max von Sydow--lengthy silences, expressions full of pain suffusing his baby face. Like any Shakespearian, he's also got a great voice, full of subtleties and surprising power. The supporting roles are well played by a strong British cast.
This middle program deals with a terrifying conspiracy of international proportions and with some of the travails of mundane life. Several absurd coincidences unfortunately hinder suspension of disbelief. There also is a surprising amount of violence, with several murders, a mutilation and much blood. Branagh's Det. Wallander carries a pistol--a powerful 9mm SIG-Sauer--but he isn't much good at using it, not at least in this episode. In one scene he fires blindly into a thick fog, trying to stop a fleeing automobile. This is useless and probably against regulations.
The action speeds up to a conclusion that mixes success and tragedy in nearly equal proportions.
As the first film of the English Wallander mini-series set a shining example, the second installment was a bit of a let-down in my eyes. Despite the obvious problems with turning a story that somewhat evolves around hackers into something eventful and interesting, Wallander himself isn't a very happening person; it's what's inside that makes most of this series kick, if you look away from the wonderful cinematography, the energetic screenplay, good dialogue and real acting, this story didn't entice me. It's a bit like flogging a dead horse, but still, not a very good TV film. I wish I could say something better about it, but the other two installments are, however, recommendable.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Do not read this if you expect to see the episode. On the other hand, read this and skip this episode. The convoluted plot begins with the coincidence of a young woman getting into a taxi that turns out to be driven by the man who raped her years before. She stabs him to death, figuring that there is no future anyway because she is involved in a sinister plot to destroy world banking and send the world into chaos. Then there's the coincidence of one of the men who is part of the evil dying of a stroke, in spite of his young age and healthy condition, right at the spot where the destruction is supposed to be triggered. Add to this the unbelievable premise that the bad guys hack the computer of the chief investigator and find out, that he is on a singles dating site, so they get the girlfriend of the chief bad guy to respond to his singles ad. Of course, she's the right age, beautiful, warm and sensitive, and the chief detective pines away for her even after she is killed (by the boyfriend), in spite of the fact that she was working with a man already responsible for at least two gruesome murders. And then there's the scene of the taxi-driving killer woman having a boyfriend with multiple computer screens set up showing the same texts as the big bad guy (who chops him up because he might talk). And the smart chief detective follows the big bad guy into a fog-shrouded woods, while the viewers shout out, "No, no! You can't see him but he can see you -- and when you're not looking, he'll get back into his van and speed away, after shooting at you, of course." Last time the chief detective was shot at he tripped on a rug at the exact moment, the same way he had in the set-up shot a few scenes earlier. Oh, com'on now. This is story-telling at its worst and most predictable.
Kenneth Branagh continues his portrayal of Kurt Wallander, the morose, driven policeman who holds forth in Sweden. In this offering, a young woman is killed and then dumped on some power lines, causing a district-wide blackout. The body of another man, murdered earlier, has been stolen. All this leads to a plot by some terrorists to set off a catastrophic event. A young man known for his computer skills is brought into the fold to try to figure out what is going on. Apparently, there is some grand design to all this and our hero must sort everything out. Branagh seems permanently depressed. He loves his daughter who recommends that he get out in the dating world, now that there is no hope of saving his marriage. He meets an attractive woman who starts to fall for him, but there is more to the story. Some of the technology is, quite literally, cryptic. We know that there is an endgame, but for most of us viewers, the science is so hard to follow as to be incomprehensible. Still, the slow pacing allows Wallander/Branagh to flex his acting skills.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Wallander reminds me much of the old fashion detective shows of the
70's and 80's but with a little bit of a darker flare. Certainly the
Swedish setting adds to the often haunting and beautiful cinematography
but that isn't enough to really make something outstanding. I like
Wallander but it can be so bleak (and yes I realize that is the point
to a certain extent.) The character himself is so depressing and as his
daughter keeps iterating to him he really needs to "get a life." The
premise for this sequel (yes I know its a TV Series but they are like
feature length films really) is decent enough though because quite
confusing by the end. Still it follows the tried and true murder
mystery detective formula of murder happens, suspects are interrogated,
clues are gathers, dots are connected and boom here is our killer. I
will say that Firewall at least strays a little from this recipe
towards the end and there is a bit more of a conspiracy angle but
essentially it is the same. Firewall also adds a bit more action to the
mix than the first outing and we actually see Wallander really jump
into hyperdrive to catch his killer.
Kenneth Branagh resumes his title role as Kurt Wallander. Branagh is very good at what he does. Wallander as a character just feels very depressed and brooding. He does this very well. I wish they would just give him the opportunity to show a little more variation and emotion because he could do it. Jeany Spark returns as Wallander's daughter and she does a good job. The chemistry between her and Branagh is what you would expect from a father daughter relationship. She doesn't get as much screen time as the first episode but she still holds her own. Orla Brady joins the cast as a potential love interest for Wallander. She does a good job as well and somehow I did figure out where her character was going. A performance I thought was particularly stand out was that of Susannah Fielding. She did a terrific job in a very small role. She was captivating and showed a lot of emotion which is more than most of the characters.
And therein lies the problem with Wallander, especially noticeable in Firewall and that is the lack of emotion. It is so procedural and dry and just lacking any real meat and potatoes. Its lovely to look at, very well shot and well directed by Niall MacCormick. The scene with Wallander in the fog and the shot on the square at the end is very nicely directed to give a distinct vibe. Its a very grey and gritty film but it lacks true brilliance because the characters feel so empty. At least in the first film we got to know Wallander beyond the murder case. However, the film still stays firmly in the mystery genre and fans of that will latch onto this and rightfully so. It is entertaining and a decent sequel if not slightly less appealing than the first "episode." 7/10
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