Friday, March 06, 2009

Last night on Channel 4: Red Riding

We'd very much like to shake the hand of the brilliant individual who signed up the Red Riding cast – that's once they've wiped the great globs of special thespian pheromones from their sticky mitts. With the likes of David Morrissey, Sean Bean, Paddy Considine, Rebecca Hall, Andrew Garfield, Eddie Marsan and Warren Clarke featuring in this trilogy of feature-length dramas, this must be the most talented bunch of British actors to be seen together on the small screen for quite some time. 

Although it'll look familiar to anyone who's seen David Fincher's 2007 film Zodiac, which has both similar tone and content, Red Riding is based on David Peace's quartet of books, which are set against the backdrop of the Yorkshire Ripper murders, though also strongly concerned with alleged police brutality and massive corruption.

It begins with eager young Yorkshire Post journalist Eddie 'Scoop' Dunford (BAFTA-winning Boy A star Andrew Garfield proving he's no one-hit wonder) reporting the murder of a young girl who was killed wearing a red hooded anorak. As he joins the dots between the girl's death and other unsolved child killings years before, his colleague Barry is investigating the shady business activities of one John Dawson (a smarmy but vicious Sean Bean). Is it all somehow connected?

Set in 1974, part one looks fantastically authentic. Thanks to that nicotine filter camera lens, visually it takes its lead from Our Friends in the North or a grimmer Life on Mars: an era when most furniture and items of clothing were either green, brown or beige and when journalists pinned clippings and maps to the wall, instead of Ctrl+C-ing it all into a Word document.

As Eddie probes further and events take their horrifying course, the drama has the feel of a bad dream spiralling surreally out of control. You're likely to end up so sucked in, all that "acting masterclass" stuff will be the last thing on your mind. Very strong stuff.

by Will Parkhouse, Wednesday 4 March 2009 

Originally published on

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