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Deep Water (2016)
Above average, but uneven at the expense of profundity
It is natural that Australia, having lengthy (dependent) ties with the UK, aspires to imitate/repeat the latter's success in the field of crime thrillers, stocking it with local nature and habits, sometimes without having any influence to the course of events or effect on scenes. A lot of is also visible in Deep Water where tautness and smoothness are overshadowed by personal issues with references to the past and leisure activities on the beach.
Well, the beginning is intriguing, but the motives and many suspects are revealed too soon, the characters are somewhat arid, the police has seemingly no ranking order in place, and the background of the principal wrongdoer is too trivial and vague for the offences he committed. So the 4 episodes a' 50 minutes are too long and hectic; moreover, I was not pleased with the final events and events leading up to them. In the wide world of English-speaking crime drama series, Deep Water is hardly the one to be classified as "must-watch".
Slightly over-sophisticated and -moralizing, yet with nice twists and good performances
I was not too eager to start watching this series - I am not into sci- fi too much, I am not a huge fan of Nolan Bros., and I have not seen the 1973 film of the same name. But, on the other hand, one should widen your horizons and names like Ed Harris, Anthony Hopkins, Sidse Babett Knudsen, and some others were solid and convincing.
Well, the first episodes were not too promising - the pace was slow, the scenes and ideas confusing, and I did not know what to expect or what was really going on (as mentioned, I was totally unaware of the subject matter). But then, gradually, when some issues were clarified and constant references to the past and reps started make sense, I began to "live and feel" together with both main characters and the ideas of this series, not paying so much attention on the sci-fi portion. The performances were at least good, if not more, and the criminal features and angles (what I always like) started to override the other nuances and aspects. The settlement, however, did not correspond to my taste fully, and pondering on and over human significance, fate, etc. has been expressed and "dissected" in many more dynamic and even works before.
Thus, that is why "only" 7 points from me. I could name tens of series more "mellowed" and catchy, with less blunt reasoning on mankind's place in the world.
More than good, but yet not great
This century has generated and produced so many distinct TV series that one would inevitably become "spoilt" by them, you become picky and demand fluent and smooth course of events, lots of twists and turns, and sharp focusing on the approach or topic you prefer. I, for example, withstand some mysticism in the background, but wrongdoers should be'of flesh and blood' and the crimes should be using wisdom and attentiveness, not a divine hand or someone from outer space...
So, to me, Whitechapel had some pain to kick start, and the first 2 seasons seemed protracted and vague; references to old mysteries did not clarify present matters, but added odd comparisons and hectic events. True the cast was distinct, to be followed with interest and sympathy, particularly Phil Davis as D.S. Ray Miles and Steve Pemberton as Edward Buchan (at first, Rupert Penry-Jones reminded me of Monk too much). Nevertheless, I decided to watch all 4 seasons in sequence, and began to somehow plunge into their mood and depiction manners, trying to "skate over" long time lags and playful mysticism... A case per 2 episodes seemed good to me, the events became catchier, but the final case (4/3) did not round up the Series in a reasonable manner, just added confusion about the possible Season 5 that has never come into existence.
Thus, "only" 7 points from me, as the UK series like Luther or What Remains have been more to my taste. But still a good work, better than many US related series.
A versatile story - mainly for the informed or history lovers
WW II brought misery to all the countries involved - particularly for the common people who lost a lot, irrespective of being part of a "winning" or a "losing" nation. The battles were over, Nazi structures dismantled - but people in many parts of Europe could not find the solution they had hoped. A culprit here was the Soviet Union, its Stalinism hoping to evolve their world revolution idea on the ashes of dismantled states and emerging hopes.
Tannbach gives a realistic picture of the era and events not too much depicted so far. Well, as the time frame is apparently too long for a miniseries, the course of events is not always smooth, and some motives may remain vague or incomprehensible to outsiders. Still, the characters are good, dynamic, so are the performances, particularly the female ones; and the changes in moods and attitudes are tackled in realistic manner. I really wanted to see what would happen next, and there were more interesting angles than clichés.
True, I am unable to know how all this is perceived by those remembering similar events or Germans today or those living outside Europe, so I can comprehend if this series does not bespeak very wide audiences. It is definitely not a story for "clear minds" and ignorant people.
Another above-the-average Scandinavian TV-thriller
With the explosive blooming of Scandi Noir, this decade has seen several dozens of thrilling series where something bad is developed and solved/removed using suspense and uneasiness... Some concepts and approached are distinct, the others not, and even in a relatively big country like Sweden, there are many recurring actors-actresses having bigger or smaller roles in various thrillers, including here, that it takes some time to get used to it. Well, most performers are good at least, but in Modus, it often seemed that the leading characters or performances were more static and trivial that many supporting ones, Melinda Kinnaman and Henrik Norlén did not impress me too much.
As for the plot and it's entertainment level, Modus had a few twists only, and the basic reasons for the wrongdoer's actions were revealed too soon, with some excessive moralisation, and the gay topic was over- exploited in this context. The police work was oddly weak, the killer of foreign origin could easily advance openly, paving the way for protracted scenes and unnecessary cast. But still, the general atmosphere was OK - probably for those having some knowledge of Scandinavian way of living and attitudes; I can hardly imagine that the series in question could be an interesting fellow to viewers outside Nothern Europe.
Not great, but still a well constructed story
In a distant country like Iceland, with low crime rate and small population, it would be odd to invent a crime story with lots of heavy criminals and weaponry involved. So you have to find some other points of references - local practices, environment, common features of mankind...
Mannaveiðar is a miniseries including many particular features, letting a Nordic admirer like me to plunge into local life where similar crimes tend to evolve. The circle of suspects is big and, as usual, many people have something to hide... The police has its personnel and priority issues, and several "blasts from the past" seem to confuse both the outsiders and those involved. The characters seem realistic, the performances good, beautifully harsh Icelandic nature visible, but there is still something that fell short for me, falling behind series and films with/by Baltasar Kormákur, for example. Thus, Mannaveiðar is more at the level of Hraunið and Hamarinn, rather than Ófærð, and is hardly a story for those not interested in life in a Nordic country. I have my doubts if I would like to follow a similar story happening in Greece or Portugal...
Berlin Station (2016)
A solid spy thriller with good actors, with not-so-novel approach
/refers to Season 1/
This decade has produced a number of spy series dealing with the post Cold War period, mostly from UK or US, with new technology elements both facilitating and complicating intelligence activities in the foreign soil. Unlike in most series, in Berlin Station, we saw troubles and rivalry between the agencies of otherwise friendly NATO allies - US and Germany - with disclosure of state secrets in the background. Although the run of events is uneven and the guilty parties and their motives are revealed too soon, there is enough thrill, some unexpected turns, and logical development of characters operating in a nice metropolis called Berlin (as I spent there almost a week a couple of years ago, I had a lot of joy of recognition).
As for performances, they were good at least, with several pleasant US/UK character actors, e.g. Richard Jenkins, Leland Orser, or Rhys Ivans; well, the latter's "exterior" has become very similar to that of Peter Stormare :) As often in espionage productions, male characters/performers are more interesting here as well.
I had my doubts where to rate the series with 8 or 7 points - and yet, 7 as the ending was trivial plus I have been "spoilt" by more intriguing and sophisticated series, e.g The Americans. But still, I am eager to watch Season 2 when it comes to light.
Il commissario De Luca (2008)
Good capture of epoch and atmosphere, uneven presentation
From time to time, I like to move beyond British series and Scandi Noir that I like best, and widen my horizon with crime dramas coming from other regions/countries. As I was unable to remember when was my last familiarisation with Italian production, I decided to watch Il commissario De Luca referred by a film website - as 1 season with 4 episodes only.
From the beginning, I liked the scenery and era - life in pre- and post-WWII Italy is rather unknown to me. Given the circumstances of corruption and nepotism perceptible in Italian society (somehow even nowadays), it created several interesting angles and additions to murder-solving activities. The cases themselves, however, were not too catchy - regardless of the fact that I did not guess who the wrongdoer was and why - and the duration of the episodes (around 1 hour 45 minutes) was too much, hence several unnecessary scenes and characters. At times, war and politics were too cautiously in the background, although the police work was strongly influenced by them.
The performances were pleasant, not so profound and distinct, but the "frizzle" of Italian men and passion/beauty of Italian women were nicely presented. Alessandro Preziosi and Raffaella Rea are definitely worth remembering for future reference.
Thus, not bad, but I would give 7 points here - 8 for environment and performances, 6 for screenplay.
Baron noir (2016)
A strong and realistic series about policymakers with different goals and values
/refers to Season 1/
Works based on political struggles and intrigues are always tricky as the proportion of fiction and non-fiction is not often clear and people within and beyond daily politics have inevitably different views and conceptions. Here, in Baron Noir, the "shadows and demons" of politics are revealed through left parties, with a certain involvement of trade unions and business organisations that are traditionally strong in France. Things, events, ideas and partnerships change fast, and the whole course of events is like based on proverbs and sayings, e.g. "desperate times call for desperate measures", "all's well that ends well", "process is more important than the result" - to name a few... Friends and allies come and go, people entangle themselves in the network of lies and injustice, and you ponder on and over how all this would end. Well, the end solution is not bright and clear, as Season 2 is already planned...
As for performances, they were rather intense and deep, the French spirit and attitudes fully included, but most of the cast, incl. Kad Merad was unfamiliar to me - although I have seen several French films and series in recent years. In my opinion, Niels Arestrup as Francis Laugier had too limited opportunities to show his talent; the president was limited time on screen and in unvaried surroundings and circumstances.
Well, Baron noir is not House of Cards to the full, but comparable to e.g. Borgen and Les hommes de l'ombre. A good watch - unless you are too involved in (leftist) politics somewhere...
Code 37 (2009)
A strong Flemish series taking place in Ghent
Although being a fan of Scandi Noir, from time to time, I am eager to widen my horizon and find out what is going on in other (European) countries vis-a-vis crime series. As I liked Belgian Salamander-series, I was referred to Code 37 - and became excited from the very beginning.
True, not all episodes are equally interesting and accomplished, sometimes I guessed the wrongdoer's's person and motives too soon, but the general atmosphere, combination of case-by-case and recurrent revenge and mystery and the beautiful panorama of Ghent make all the 3 seasons a whole, to be watched in sequence, not sporadically (at first, I thought that I would stick to Season 1 only, but I was interested to see the final solution which, however, could have been more sophisticated). And the topic of prostitution and related phenomena is depicted in a realistic manner, with far more minuses than pluses - if there is any glamour or wealth involved, then it is fake, concealing lots of serious issues.
But the most pleasant component of this series is the characters and cast, even when/if with some clichés and fathomable approaches. To me,Veerle Baetens and Hannah Maes and Gilles De Schryver as Kevin Desmet were the most interesting; the inclusion of several Wat als? actors in supporting roles was also a pleasant diversity - as their parts here were far from amusing or humorous.
Thus, a good series, making me willing to visit Ghent again - after several decades. Recommended, unless you are a strong supporter or frequent customer of prostitution...