by Allan Fish
(UK 2009 306m) DVD2
Aka. 1974, 1980 & 1983
Twinkle, twinkle, little star…
p Wendy Brazington, Anita Overland d Julian Jarrold, James Marsh, Anand Tucker w Tony Grisoni novels David Peace ph Rob Hardy m Adrian Johnston, Barrington Pheloung art Christina Casali
Andrew Garfield (Eddie Dunford), Warren Clarke (Bill Molloy), David Morrissey (Maurice Jobson), Sean Bean (John Dawson), Paddy Considine (Peter Hunter), Eddie Marsan (Jack Whitehead), Rebecca Hall (Paula Garland), Maxine Peake (Helen Marshall), Sean Harris (Bob Craven), Mark Addy (John Piggott), Peter Mullan (Martin Laws), Jim Carter (Harold Angus), Robert Sheehan (BJ), Anthony Flanagan (Barry Gannon), Kelly Freemantle (Clare Strachan), Shaun Dooley (Dick Alderman), Gerald Kearns (Leonard Cole), Saskia Reeves (Mandy Wymer), Lesley Sharp (Joan Hunter), Cathryn Bradshaw (Marjorie Dawson), Daniel Mays (Michael Myshkin), Joseph Mawle (Peter Sutcliffe),
Settling down on the 5th March 2009 to watch the first instalment on Channel 4 one was immediately struck by the look of Red Riding. It’s bathed in a distinct golden veneer. No nostalgic glow this, more like yesterday’s stale beer, or dried up piss. Appropriate really, for this is a horrible place, West Yorkshire (Riding as it was back in the days) in the seventies and eighties, a county terrorised by two evils, a child kidnapper and killer with a passion for turning the children into posthumous angels by attaching swan’s wings to their backs and, infamously, the Yorkshire Ripper.
If we’re being brutally honest, the middle instalment doesn’t quite hang together as well as the surrounding chapters; perhaps because removing the preceding novel (1977 wasn’t dramatised) removed some of the foundation, more obviously because the first and third parts now trace the search for the same killer. The central theme running between the three remains constant, however, of a dark, bleak, hell on earth, in which there is no hope at all. The law has become the equivalent of the anti-law, making it up as they go along, protecting their own nefarious interests, sending innocent men to prison, torturing, abusing and battering suspects, killing whoever gets in the way, and generally making a mockery of the very word Police. Each drama has its crusading hero. The first sees young reporter Eddie Dunford fall into an affair with the mother of a kidnapped child, only to come unstuck as he gets in over his head. The second sees an outsider sent from Manchester to oversee the Ripper hunt, only to have his hands tied in every direction and, as soon as he gets close to the corruption at hand, he, too, pays for it. By 1983, some of the guilty parties are dead and others are nearing retirement. And while a solicitor becomes involved in trying to get a harmless innocent released from prison for crimes he didn’t commit one guilty officer has reached breaking point and lets that extinct commodity in the West Yorkshire Police creep in; namely, a conscience.
Superbly directed and scripted, as television drama it doesn’t get any better than this. The widescreen shooting betrays the fact that it will be shown cinematically outside of the UK, and it merits no less (there will be no better film in 2009), but they must be seen in quick succession. The cast is in itself probably the greatest gathered in recent memory, so let it be noted that Garfield, Bean, Carter, Clarke, Considine, Peake, Addy, Hall, Mullan, Harris, Sheehan and Marsan deserve every plaudit laid at them, with special mention to Mawle who, in one simple scene, is utterly chilling as Sutcliffe, and to Mays (a million miles from Funland), who’s heartbreaking as the innocent simple soul framed for murder. If one had to pick a man of the match, however, I’d go for Morrissey, whose eyes betoken more than words can from behind his spectacles, his spark of conscience growing ever bigger until he reaches the point of no return, and the ending we thought we’d never have, a silver lining, like a quite literal ray of sunlight into the gloom of a killer’s death chamber. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, all good children go to heaven…if they’re lucky, for this is the North, where they do what they like.
Note: these films will, I hear, be shown cinematically in the US later this year. Get in before and get the DVD out on 17th April in the UK.