The Shadow Line (2011)
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I really wish that there could be a second season, but unlike any yank series it won't be happening.
Thank you BBC. I see several BAFTAs in your future,
1. Any series that nicks a title off Joseph Conrad is at least ASPIRING to greatness.
2. Chiwetel Ejiofor's a BAMF. With immaculate vowels. Match that with Christopher "Lots of planets have a North" Ecclestone and it's made of win from the start 3. This series is almost into Edge Of Darkness goodness already. No. Not the Mel Gibson version.
In all honesty, this is what the BBC was made to do; original drama that wouldn't have been made by any other channel in the UK. Perhaps it's all going to implode into crapness, but so far I really don't see how it can. OK, posting reviews when I'm shedded's probably a bad idea, but this, so far, is immaculate.
Without doubt it is certainly one of the best things this year.
It is a great script and the characters are are realistic. Rafe Spall is good but goes slightly over the top with an accent straight out of 'Little Britain', this in my view made his character slightly less believable as an arch villain. Spall is a good actor, not yet as well known as his father Timothy. Rafe is more in the like of Tim Roth and Gary Oldman. It is on the cards that he and several others in this drama will be in great demand when casting agents watch the performances in this.
Stephen Rea, Robert Pugh, Anthony Sher, Lesley Sharpe, David Schofield and Malcom Storry doing great work as they always do. Although fairly new to me, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Keirston Wareing were great, in fact the whole production was top class.
Great TV with a great British cast and a good music score make 'The Shadow Line' unmissable. It will be an injustice if this isn't up for several BAFTAs next year.
'The Shadow Line' was not easy comfort viewing, that was the point of it, surely?
It compares very well to the missed opportunity of 'Luther', though in that case perhaps having one of the stars of 'The Wire' raised impossible expectations, even so, what a load of overblown, overheated, all sound and fury signifying nothing 'Luther' is - I gave up on it after series 1.
The Shadow Line had some of the very best, most tense, often shocking set pieces of anything on UK television for many a long time, these were not isolated either. This I think is where many draw comparisons with classics like 'Edge Of Darkness', The Shadow Line does not match up to that one - what does? Still, the comparison with 'Between The Lines' of 20 years ago, as some critics have cited, despite the very different series formats, is a fair one.
Overall, a good effort, worthwhile, a series that will be looked back on rather more fondly that the more negative reviewers think.
Of course, the talented cast is an essential piece of crafting this brilliant work; Chiwetel Ejiofor is the perfect protagonist, a do-gooder with a potentially dark past who explodes in the final few episodes. Christopher Eccleston excels as the "good guy" on the bad side, a very Stringer Bell-esque character who takes a business approach to everything. The supporting cast all make huge impressions as well; Rafe Spall and Stephen Rea both create two of the most terrifying villains in recent memory. Spall the livewire with his finger always on the trigger and Rea the calm and mysterious shadow figure hiding behind the door. They take two entirely different approaches and each one is marvelous beyond words.
It's pretty hard for a mini-series to end up ranking among the best complete series for me, but this one is high up there. It's without a doubt the best mini-series I've ever seen and at the end I was definitely just desperate for even more. The final episode ends up having to rely a little too much on exposition and there are a few too many twists, but it's all necessary to wrap up the story and leave the viewer satisfied with answers. The Shadow Line is the rare series that will have you constantly guessing and on the edge of your seat. Intensity beyond intensity, a really powerful masterwork.
The shadow line has no such lightness or let up, and the nearest I can get to compare my feeling at the end is the 'Get Carter' (Michael Caine) film.
A fine cast does this justice and an excellent script made Thursday evenings a night in! A huge well done to the writer and all the actors who made this so memorable. If you remember Stephen Rea as Carter Brandon in 'I didn't know you cared' (one of the best comedy series ever IMHO), who would have imagined he would progress to being one of the most memorable screen villains ever. Bravo!
The acting, direction, editing and sound are brilliant. The script is nearly as good as all of them.
This seems to be continually compared to The Wire in the British press. Yes, it is about cops and criminals and the line - the Shadow Line - between them. That is about as far as the comparisons can be taken.
Personally I found The Wire too drawn out and I think the overhype of it is absurd. It's good but no way "the best TV show ever made" as many people like to label it.
The Shadow Line starts of at a crime scene. A bigwig drug dealer - Harvey Wratten has been found in the back of his car with a bullet in the head and two in his body. We are then introduced to a series of characters, dodgy coppers, his criminal assosciates, his psychopathic nephew.
However it is not until episode 2 where we meet one of the scariest characters ever portrayed on film. Gatehouse.
As it said on the press release - there is a puppet master lurking in the shadows pulling the strings. Stephen Rea making his best performance since The Crying Game.
Some people on forums think that he is a spook whilst others have, ridiculously said that he is supernatural! Get a grip, please. He is a rival gangster or hit-man for a rival gangster.
My money is on the Turk.
Rafe Spalls psycho gets a lot of criticsm. I think he plays the part very well. The only thing that made him unconvincing was the ludicrous way he runs!! I also find the whole Alzheimers story intensely irritating. It seems to have been forced in there because it is the latest "fashionable" ailment. It doesn't work IMO.
Having said that this is the best British drama for at least a decade.
I recorded episode 1, but will be watching the remaining episodes as they go out. In fact, I am so keen to see the next episode that I am writing this during a coffee break from constructing a time machine in my garage!
Update: My hopes were not dashed. The remaining episodes built beautifully into an excellent and perfectly presented story.
Most of the acting was good. Most of the story was good but I never just look at that. I look at the overall plot and the effect the series will have on the world. Is the overall plot believable? No. Is this a warning of what could really happen in the world? Of course not. This is the new millennium folks not the 70's. I have a little more faith in the police force in Britain than that. Besides if millions of dollars suddenly show up in the police pension fund someone is going to notice.
The series is called the Shadow Line. a reference to the moral line the characters draw in themselves. Bad morals were well documented but the other side, the good side is almost completely absent. At the end of the series Gatehouse and Patterson ask is it so clear to draw that line? Jonah Gabriel says to Gatehouse "of course"... honestly I was waiting to hear more. Obviously the good side of "THE SHADOW LINE" is not well represented here.
I don't need a happy ending, but the ending in this film was negative in the extreme.
This was a gripping drama; Chiwetel Ejiofor does a fine job as Gabriel and Christopher Eccleston and Rafe Spall are good as drug dealers Joseph Bede and Jay Wratten; however it is Stephen Rea who steals the show as the sinister and enigmatic 'Gatehouse'. It is a mystery who he is; is he rival dealer or does he work for the state? His appearance certainly resembles fictional spy George Smiley. If these mysteries aren't enough we also have corruption in the police, a drug dealer coping with a wife with Alzheimer's and a policeman who is wife is desperate to have a child. Hugo Blick did a great job bringing this to the screen as the writer, producer and director; he created a story that is both gripping and atmospheric...The final episode was one of the tensest things I've seen on television for a long time and also one of the most shocking. While I loved this series some people might not be keen as there is a fair amount of swearing and some fairly shocking violence some of which involves children.
Where it falls down is that all the characters have the same way of talking, their speech is from a version of a David Mamet power and crime drama and laced with some contemporary management speak. They take an idea and riff it - like Mamet does - and speak quietly and coolly to show they are all powerful. It becomes boring after a while.
Additionally, the interaction between the police is unrealistic. People are abusive and often plain stupid which seems an unlikely trait and rather odd, certainly compared with the criminals, who are eccentric but very polite. It indicates style over substance which is a weakness in the series.
Overall, good, but no way as good as the creators self-consciously believe it is.
But that seems to be half the problem. They try so hard to put so much stuff in so that people think that's 'clever' that it helps to highlight things that don't work - little details like people never locking cars after leaving them which contrast so strongly with the little details we are 'supposed' to notice. There is also the level of violence which doesn't always work and feels that its just there for effect. And its increasingly full of clichés. In other words they just seem to try too hard and when it clunks it really clunks. The whole thing in the hospital ward for instance.
I know its a very different beast from Edge of Darkness to which it has been compared and maybe its just that I saw that a long long time ago - but that was so much better structured and shot - and the Wire - well that was a lot of not much happening with occasional dramatic events which were so much more effective for being a little unusual. This tries but sadly its nothing like as good as either
It appears to have been done on a low budget and reminds me of the 'spoofs' that you see on the impressions show. Such a shame - I was hoping for another gem like Zen, oh well!
The Shadow Line is a complex story of criminals who kill and double cross each other and of a police force that is as corrupt and violent as the criminals they are trying to put away. We are not spared generous doses of horrific violence and the villain-in-chief, a character who goes by the name of 'Gatehouse', is so frighteningly malevolent, that he has been compared to Hannibal Lector in his ability to put the heebie-jeebies into the viewing public.
I was very surprised to learn that about 2.5 million viewers abandoned watching this series after the second episode, and it has left me in despair as to what the modern audiences regard as good entertainment.
I truly wonder just what the length of the average attention span and the level of intelligence of the average viewer can be these days. Sure, on occasion, the plot moved slowly but only in the interest of character development. Do we really want all our 'cops and robbers' to be purely two-dimensional people or do we want to be able to relate to them and try to understand what makes them 'tick', much as we can in TV series such as 'Sopranos' or 'Boardwalk Empire?
And just because a plot has several twists and turns, does that mean that it is incomprehensible to the average viewer? If this old codger can understand it, then surely the younger generation to should be able to follow it in their sleep!
Some professional reviewers claim that this is the best piece of thriller drama produced by British television in years, and I am inclined to agree with them. They certainly pulled out all their stops and the results were exhilarating. But a small word of warning; if you do hunt this series down and watch it don't expect anything approaching a conventional ending. And there certainly won't be any sequels thank God!
I was interested to note that the entire series was filmed in the Isle of Man, even though it is largely set in London with a few scenes in Ireland. Believe me, you would never have known it. There were no obvious signs that the producers cut any corners to save production costs.
It is a bit of crusade of mine to somehow get Hollywood to drastically reduce the obscene amounts of money they spend on movies. It just isn't necessary, as we have seen time and time again by all the low budget films and TV series that are every bit as good, and can attract equally large audiences.
If the principal 'players': actors, writers, producers and directors alike, refuse to drop their ridiculous pay demands, then go and search out new talent. I'm quite sure that there's plenty around.
And then Hollywood wouldn't be screaming so loudly about all the illegal downloads of their products and they wouldn't be obliged to charge far too much for the privilege of buying a legitimate copy. Get the movie costs down and then charge a sensible download fee that the average Joe can afford to pay. And everyone will be happy.
I know pigs might fly