Brief Guide to British Crime Drama



All recent roads in crime drama lead to Forbrydelsen, the Danish series known to American audiences by its AMC then Netflix remake The Killing. For many, The Killing introduced a new vibe or set of possibilities for telling stories about crime that British TV critics had labeled Scandinavian or Nordic noir after shows like Wallander and The Bridge made their way across the channel.

This vibe has become the dominant storytelling mode in British-produced crime dramas, which is a good thing. Both UK and US audiences are attracted to these muted colors, nocturnal textures, and simple landscapes. We seem to be becoming more sophisticated in our appreciation for the basic elements of cinematography like depth of field and composition. And these shows offer us moral and emotional complexity. We are interested in TV that accurately reflects our era, which has grown more confusing where we expected it to be more transparent.

Here... Read More

August 25 (Date Movies): Days and Hours of the Jackal

    [Ed. note: Date Movies is a fascinating ongoing project observing cinema by our current time and date. In this monumental labor, Ron Reed is enabling us to connect with treasured cinema moments in an unexpected way. Ron has very kindly allowed us to link to these from Filmwell as the project grows. Follow Ron @RonReedPT for more.) – Here is the latest installment from the Date Movies project for August 25. Roger Ebert called Day... Read More

The Leftovers (Season 1, Ep. 7-8) – The Problem With A Weak Apocalypse

Two of the show’s greatest Lindelofian mysteries have been resolved in the last few episodes of The Leftovers, but the now 3 1/2 year distance from the Departure itself indicates there is more to come. For those unfamiliar with classic Dispensationalism (see below for handy chart) - this is the span of time marked for peace during the seven year tribulation following the rapture. The remaining 3 1/2 years are full of literal hell on earth,... Read More

The Creators of “Ink” Return With “The Frame”

Four years ago, I was blown away by Ink, the second feature from Colorado-based filmmaker Jamin Winans. Ink was not without its flaws, but ultimately, I found it to be a stunning and thought-provoking fantasy film. Or, as I wrote in my review: Ink definitely wears its heart on its sleeve, and is packed with themes of redemption, guilt, forgiveness, the cancerous effects of materialism and pride, the importance of fathers, and the power of stories... Read More

The Leftovers (Season 1, Ep. 3-6)

    So far, The Leftovers has struggled to capitalize on the human scale of its Rapture narrative. The series has built up a few story arcs, spent a bit of time exploring the backstory of The Guilty Remnant, and nodded toward the big Holy Wayne plot. But I remain skeptical of the show in the same way Fred Clark is not a fan of the Left Behind novels, which he mercilessly critiqued in a legendary collection of blog posts beginning with... Read More

Practical Tips for New Critics

    I am not a professional critic, as I don’t write for an outlet that pays me on a regular basis. Feel free to take all this with a grain of salt. I have always been drawn repeatedly to the WordPress dashboard and query letter simply because I feel compelled to share something I have seen, heard, or noticed. But over the years I have had to figure out how professional (or at least, better networked) critics do what they do and take... Read More

Grisgris (Haroun, 2013)

Gris Gris runs into a few issues in its third act, as the story seems to run out of steam. Also, its two leads remain pretty undeveloped throughout. But I want to get those criticisms out of the way so that I can share what really works well. The film opens on its greatest asset, which is the dancer (Souleymane Démé) director Mahamet-Saleh Haroun apparently encountered one day and was so impressed that he began to spin a film script around him. It... Read More

The Strange Little Cat (Zürcher, 2013)

  The youngest daughter in The Strange Little Cat is the nearest approximation to my seven year old daughter I have seen in cinema. Zürcher catalogs the little adult responsibilities she wants to experience, like pushing plastic bottles into the recycling machine. He pays attention to the thoughts percolating after she hears something very adult about the world, like the fate of the sparrows outside if she stops feeding them. It is clear... Read More

Day of Wrath (Dreyer, 1943)

    “Day of Wrath, for pity take My sins away from Satan’s grasp And bear my soul to Heaven at last.” – Made in Denmark during World War Two, this film – set four centuries earlier – is heavy with the weight of German occupation, as women are tortured and cajoled into denouncing others as witches. But the ready identification of these stern, detached church authority figures with the Nazis and their collaborators,... Read More

Rectify (Season 2, Ep. 6) – A Little Aquinas…

  “You needn’t act as if the world had come to an end,” he said, “because it hasn’t. From now on you’ve got to live in a new world and face a few realities for a change. Buck up,” he said, “it won’t kill you.” (Flannery O’Connor – “Everything That Rises Must Converge”) The pace of Rectify is slow enough that by midseason it has become easy to forget this really is a story about life and death,... Read More