Archive for Cush Jumbo

Stranger Ways (Dome’s Drone)

Posted in FILM, literature, Television with tags , , , , , , on October 14, 2021 by dcairns

Followed up my Nicholas Blake reading by actually watching The Beast Must Die, the recent TV adaptation. A really,really strong performance by Cush Jumbo as the avenging mother (a father in the book) — she gets a long-held close-up in episode one which was the main thing that kept me watching. A typically good performance by Jared Harris as the titular beast — he seemed to be using more of his famous dad’s energy than usual. And, as in the book, the detective hero, Nigel Strangeways, played by Billy Howle, is a bit of a dud. Absent from all the really key scenes, robbed of the task of solving a mystery for us, he seems like an unnecessary remnant, a vestigial toe of the cosy crime story in the novel, and all the efforts of screenwriter Gaby Chiappe to make him interesting — chiefly by giving him a case of PTSD — come to nothing. It’s not the actor’s fault. I think when you define a task — as I think those involved have done here — as “make something interesting” — you’re already on course to lose, because you’re taking something you see as boring and trying to hang tinsel on it.

I see that Chiappe also wrote THEIR FINEST, which I previously detested. Sorry. I will avoid future writings from this author because it just feels mean. I didn’t set out to hate-watch it. Although, this is an improvement. In the plus camp, the show MOSTLY avoids the leaden exposition that plagues British TV writing (I don’t think the boom in US quality TV has inspired anything comparable over here), the real protagonist’s story is compelling — meanwhile Strangeways spends three episodes trying to solve a broken window — director Dome Karukoski keeps things expansive and propulsive whenever possible — the reliance on drone shots doesn’t feel too hackneyed — already the drone feels as tiresomely ubiquitous as the ’70s helicopter, but it can still work — the modernisation of Blake’s yarn is skillfully done. And yet — the series doesn’t have what Blake’s novel had, that genuinely heartbreaking quality of a bereaved parent. It’s curious how that is absent entirely, given the leads’ sure-handedness.