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Bodyguard (BBC) - Series review

Bodyguard

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

BBC1’s conspiracy thriller Bodyguard has to rate as pressure cooker TV at its finest… albeit one with flaws.

For six weeks, Jed Mercurio has proven something of a mercurial talent in not only being able to set the Internet ablaze with conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory, but also ensuring that the 60 minutes of actual screen-time rated among the most finger-bitingly tense this side of watching an England penalty shootout at the World Cup Finals.

Spoilers ahead…

Sunday’s finale stayed true to form, involving – as it did – a prolonged stand-off in which the series hero found himself wearing a suicide vest with armed police and possible enemies staring him down. It was genuinely gripping stuff.

But once the vest came off, the cracks started to appear. Mercurio’s screenplay showed signs of fallibility. There were elements that either didn’t entirely make sense or felt flimsy at best.

The series began with another suicide bomber (Anjli Mohindra’s Nadiya) being thwarted by an off-duty police Sergeant David Budd (Richard Madden). He was then subsequently ‘rewarded’ with being assigned to protect Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes), only to find himself tasked with being bodyguard to one of the most dangerous politicians in the UK.

Montague, it turned out, was not only mounting a potential Parliamentary coup, but also a closer liaison with the secret services, giving them more powers in the fight against terrorism and organised crime via the provocative bill Ripa18. This, in turn, made her a target.

To complicate matters, Budd and Montague began an affair. But this was ended when Montague was eventually killed in an explosion, having survived one assassination attempt.

Thus, Bodyguard became a show about finding Julia’s killers and working out whether the PTSD-riddled former soldier Budd was actually involved, or whether the blame lay with organised crime, the secret service, fellow government ministers or – indeed – whether she was, in fact, still alive.

Sunday’s finale answered those without leaving any loose ends. And while it largely succeeded in playing its cards so close to its chest that few could have predicted who was actually to blame (Budd’s boss together with organised criminals), fewer still could have guessed the role that original suicide bomber Nadiya had to play.

And yet as well concealed as these unwitting co-conspirators were, there were elements that struggled to convince, even when casting aside the dramatic licence that the show took with most of its primary characters. It is widely acknowledged, for instance, that a man of Budd’s obvious mental frailty would never have been allowed near the Home Secretary, let alone being allowed to possess a firearm.

While Scotland Yard itself has been forced to make clear that romantic entanglements between bodyguards and those they are protecting are strictly off-limits.

But while both of those can be said to have been sacrificed in the name of entertainment, there remains doubt over Nadiya’s ‘last act reveal’ from apparently unwilling suicide bomber to the criminal mastermind behind most of it all (in terms of how she ruthlessly built and supplied the bombs used throughout the series in the first place). Would a woman of her fierce resolve have ‘bottled it’ earlier on in the series? Would she even have been wearing her own vest? Could it be that most of the plot thereafter hung on a piece of luck?

Bodyguard

Similarly, the lack of any loose ends and an apparently ‘happy ending’ for Budd seemed a little too neat from a writer of Mercurio’s talents, given that he’s also the brains behind the sprawling and complex Line of Duty (now approaching its fifth series).

That being said, Bodyguard still deserves a lot of credit for the way in which it kept us entertained throughout. It was first-rate Sunday night TV for the way in which it continually delivered one tense encounter after another, while harking back to old-school viewing thrills for the way in which it kept viewers guessing from one week to the next rather than dropping the complete box set to binge watch.

This was a show that had people talking. And it genuinely got people excited and looking forward to Sunday night on the sofa, transfixed.

From the opening stand-off in episode one, through to the suicide vest removal scene in episode six, this had so many moments to remember. The first assassination attempt on Julia was incredibly visceral and brutal, as was the nerve-shredding attempt to blow up a school with a lorry of explosives. These were set pieces to rival anything on the big screen.

But the dialogue was great, too – with several exchanges fuelling the conspiracy theories and driving the show’s momentum from episode to episode.

Of note, too, were the performances. Madden, in particular, was terrific, pulling viewers in every direction as they tried to figure out whether he was a Homeland-style killer in waiting or an innocent man being horribly framed. We cared about him throughout.

But everyone from Gina McKee’s police chief to Sophie Rundle’s estranged wife played their part in ensuring that everyone had a significant role to play – and seldom in the way that you may have been expecting.

So, while by no means as water-tight as we may have been expecting come the final revelations, Bodyguard remained a top-notch Sunday night thriller that was well worth becoming embroiled in.

ITV confirms fourth season of Unforgotten

Unforgotten

Story by Jack Foley

HIT drama Unforgotten has been given a fourth season by ITV.

Produced by Sally Haynes and Laura Mackie’s Mainstreet Pictures, the new series will see BAFTA award nominees Nicola Walker (Last Tango In Halifax, The Split) and Sanjeev Bhaskar (Goodness Gracious Me, Paddington 2) reprise their roles as DCI Cassie Stuart and DI Sunny Khan as they investigate another emotionally charged and compelling cold case.

Praised for its realistic portrayal of a police procedural, empathetic approach and powerful performances, each series of Unforgotten follows the unravelling of a historical crime.

The show never fails to attract a high calibre supporting casting, with previous series boasting the likes of Tom Courtenay, who won the Best Supporting Actor BAFTA for his performance in 2016, Trevor Eve, Ruth Sheen and Wendy Craig among its ensemble.

The latest series, which aired earlier this summer, featured moving performances from Alex Jennings, Kevin McNally, Neil Morrissey and James Fleet.

The new six-part series will once again be penned by creator Chris Lang (Innocent, Dark Heart) and directed by Andy Wilson (Ripper Street, Endeavour), both of whom have worked on all three of the previous series.

Writer and Executive Producer Chris Lang commented: “I am so delighted to have been asked to make a fourth series of Unforgotten. The reaction to series 3 was better than I could ever have expected (with more people watching the last episode than any other in all three series) and I cannot wait to discover what lies ahead for Cassie and Sunny, and to create a whole new cast of characters for them to grapple with.”

ITV’s Head of Drama, Polly Hill, added: “We have been delighted with the reception of the first three series of Unforgotten and are thrilled to commission a fourth instalment. Chris Lang’s writing is incredibly powerful and his storytelling utterly compelling, so we have no doubt that the new case will have viewers gripped again.”

Teaser poster and trailer released for Netflix's Daredevil season three

Daredevil Season 3

Netflix has released the first footage from the long-awaited new season of Marvel’s Daredevil.

Embracing the darkness, enraged by the evil afoot, the video teases the return of Matt Murdock… the vigilante.

Marvel’s Daredevil season three launches worldwide on Netflix on October 19, 2018.

Blinded as a young boy but imbued with extraordinary senses, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) fights against injustice by day as a lawyer, and by night as the superhero “Daredevil” in modern day Hell’s Kitchen, New York City.

Watch the trailer

Killing Eve: First episode review

Killing Eve

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

FROM its opening moments, you know Killing Eve is the type of show you’re going to love by virtue of its willingness to play things a little different.

Hence, while the premise is overly familiar – agent pursues assassin across Europe in a cat-and-mouse game – the execution bears all the hallmarks of a show that exists to subvert expectations.

For starters, there’s that opening scene. It focuses on an attractive woman as she sits in a café, apparently studying a little girl as she eats ice-cream at the next table. When the girl smiles at the barista, he grins back, prompting the woman to do the same.

It’s reasonable to assume, therefore, that the woman, or assassin, is having to study normal human interaction in order to understand and imitate it. But no sooner has the girl warmed to the woman, then the woman gets up, pays her bill and promptly tips the bowl of ice-cream over the child as she leaves the restaurant.

It’s a bravura act: designed to make you laugh as much as gasp. But it expertly lays the foundations for what’s to come.

Killing Eve is deliciously naughty. It exists to misbehave as much as one of its leading ladies… which brings us to another of those subversive elements.

The primary roles are occupied by two women. Jodie Comer is the assassin, aka Villanelle, while Sandra Oh is her pursuer, the MI5 agent Eve. Both are comfortable within their environments, rather than women in men’s worlds.

Comer, arguably, remains the most enigmatic. Moments after her ice-cream encounter, we’re told that she has killed a Russian politician by slicing his femoral artery in the street. She then plays dead with her handler, indulges in a three-some, travels to Tuscany to kill another target at a wedding (luring his grandson into her scheme into the bargain) and laid waste to a hospital full of potential witnesses in London.

Her actions are somehow as playful as they are sexy. But they’re never exploitative. Unlike, say, movies such as Atomic Blonde, the sexual element is under-played. Villanelle never has to undress to impress. Rather, she hints at her allure. But there is no unnecessary stripping or sexual innuendo. It makes her instantly more memorable.

Likewise, Oh’s Eve is a no-nonsense desk-jockey, suddenly thrust into a high stakes game against an assassin she has long suspected is female by virtue of men’s arrogance towards her. She already looks to be a worthy adversary. And the one scene she shared with Comer was a blast… a fleeting exchange in a wash-room, pre-hospital massacre, that lays some delicious foundations for the future.

Trailers have shown they will meet again – but they’re dynamic already looks set to be irresistibly sexy in a natural, organic kind of way.

If that’s not enough to recommend Killing Eve already, then consider there’s deftly handled action set pieces, top-notch location work and some very funky soundtrack blasts. Oh, and the supporting cast, including Fiona Shaw, Kim Bodnia and (especially) David Haig, look well placed to add to the quality of this first-rate thriller.

We can’t wait to find out what happens next…

Killing Eve screens on BBC1 on Saturday nights.

Emmys 2018: The Crown, Westworld and Game of Thrones triumph as Brits win big

The Crown

Story by Jack Foley

BIG budget shows The Crown, Westworld and Game of Thrones emerged as some of the big winners at the 2018 Emmys, as well as helping several British stars to enjoy awards success.

Claire Foy, Thandie Newton, Welsh actor Matthew Rhys and Charlie Brooker were among the Brits to taste victory, in what proved to be a great night for home-grown talent.

Foy won the best actress in a drama series for her role as Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s royal epic The Crown, while Newton was recognised for her supporting role in HBO’s futuristic drama Westworld.

Rhys also took home one of the night’s big prizes – best leading actor in a drama series for his performance in spy series The Americans.

And Brooker, the British creator of Black Mirror, and his co-writer William Bridges won best writing for a limited series.

In her acceptance speech, British star Foy described her time on The Crown as “the most extraordinary two-and-a-half years of my life”.

She said: “I was given a role I never thought I would ever get a chance to play, and I met people who I will love for ever and ever. And the show goes on, which makes me so proud. So I dedicate this to the next cast, the next generation, and I also dedicate this to [her co-star] Matt Smith.”

Olivia Colman is due to take over the role from Foy as the show enters its third season.

Commenting on her best supporting actress in a drama series win, Newton said: “I don’t even believe in God but I’m going to thank her tonight.”

Rhys, whose acclaimed show The Americans follows two KGB spies in an arranged marriage who are posing as Americans in Reagan-era Washington DC, told series creator Joe Weisberg: “Parts like these come along so rarely. I will forever be in your debt.”

Of the night’s other big winners, Game of Thrones won two prizes – best drama series and supporting actor for Peter Dinklage – while Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs Maisel scooped five comedy awards.

The series took home best writing, directing, lead actress and supporting actress in the comedy categories, as well as one of the night’s big prizes – best comedy series.

The Assassination of Gianni Versace was also triumphant, scooping best limited series, best directing for a limited series, and best lead actor in a limited series for Darren Criss.

While Henry Winkler won his first Emmy – supporting actor in a comedy series for his role in Barry – 42 years after he was first nominated for playing The Fonz in Happy Days. Leading man and series creator Bill Hader also won the best actor in a comedy prize.

Jeff Daniels took home the prize for best supporting actor in a limited series or a television movie for his role in Netflix’s Godless – described as a feminist western. While NBC’s Saturday Night Live took home the variety sketch series honour.

Heading into the ceremony, two of the most hotly tipped shows for awards success were Atlanta and The Handmaid’s Tale – but both failed to replicate their successes from last year and went home empty-handed.

Main winners at a glance

Drama Series
Game of Thrones
The Crown
The Handmaid’s Tale
Stranger Things
The Americans
This Is Us
Westworld

Best comedy series
Atlanta
Barry
black-ish
Curb Your Enthusiasm
GLOW
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Silicon Valley
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Best limited series
The Alienist
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Genius: Picasso
Godless
Patrick Melrose

Best lead actress in a drama series
Sandra Oh – Killing Eve
Keri Russell – The Americans
Tatiana Maslany – Orphan Black
Claire Foy – The Crown
Evan Rachel Wood – Westworld
Elisabeth Moss – The Handmaid’s Tale

Best lead actor in a drama series
Jason Bateman – Ozark
Matthew Rhys – The Americans
Milo Ventimiglia – This Is Us
Sterling . Brown – This Is Us
Ed Harris – Westworld
Jeffrey Wright – Westworld

Best lead actress in a limited series or movie
Sarah Paulson – American Horror Story: Cult
Michelle Dockery – Godless
Edie Falco – Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders
Regina King – Seven Seconds
Jessica Biel – The Sinner
Laura Dern – The Tale

Best lead actor in a limited series or movie
Antonio Banderas – Genius: Picasso
Darren Criss – The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Benedict Cumberbatch – Patrick Melrose
Jeff Daniels – Looming Tower
John Legend – Jesus Christ Superstar: Live in Concert
Jesse Plemons – U.S.S. Callister (Black Mirror)

Best lead actor in a comedy series
Anthony Anderson – black-ish
Ted Danson – The Good Place
Larry David – Curb Your Enthusiasm
Donald Glover – Atlanta
Bill Hader – Barry
William H Macy – Shameless

Best lead actress in a comedy series
Pamela Adlon – Better Things
Rachel Brosnahan – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Allison Janney – Mom
Issa Rae – Insecure
Tracee Ellis Ross – black-ish
Lily Tomlin – Grace and Frankie

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau – Game of Thrones
Peter Dinklage – Game of Thrones
Joseph Fiennes – The Handmaid’s Tale
David Harbour – Stranger Things
Mandy Patinkin – Homeland
Matt Smith – The Crown

Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Alexis Bledel – The Handmaid’s Tale
Millie Bobby Brown – Stranger Things
Ann Dowd – The Handmaid’s Tale
Lena Headey – Game of Thrones
Vanessa Kirby – The Crown
Thandie Newton – Westworld
Yvonne Strahovski – The Handmaid’s Tale

Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Louie Anderson -Baskets
Alec Baldwin – Saturday Night Live
Tituss Burgess – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Brian Tyree Henry – Atlanta
Tony Shalhoub – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Kenan Thompson – Saturday Night Live
Henry Winkler – Barry

Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Zazie Beetz – Atlanta
Alex Borstein – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Aidy Bryant – Saturday Night Live
Betty Gilpin – GLOW
Leslie Jones – Saturday Night Live
Kate McKinnon – Saturday Night Live
Laurie Metcalf – Roseanne
Megan Mullally – Will & Grace

Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Television Movie
Jeff Daniels – Godless
Brandon Victor Dixon – Jesus Christ Superstar
John Leguizamo – Waco
Ricky Martin – The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Edgar Ramirez – The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Michael Stuhlbarg – The Looming Tower
Finn Wittrock – The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or a Television Movie
Sara Bareilles – Jesus Christ Superstar
Penelope Cruz – The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Judith Light – The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Adina Porter – American Horror Story: Cult
Merritt Wever – Godless
Letitia Wright – Black Museum (Black Mirror)

Apostle - Netflix launches trailer for Dan Stevens' drama

Apostle

APOSTLE, a Netflix original film starring Dan Stevens, premieres globally on October 12, 2018.

The year is 1905. Thomas Richardson travels to a remote island to rescue his sister after she’s kidnapped by a mysterious religious cult demanding a ransom for her safe return.

It soon becomes clear that the cult will regret the day it baited this man, as he digs deeper and deeper into the secrets and lies upon which the commune is built.

Joining Stevens in Apostle is a star-studded ensemble cast including Lucy Boynton, Mark Lewis Jones, Bill Milner, Kristine Froseth, Paul Higgins and Michael Sheen.

The film is written and directed by Gareth Evans.

Watch the trailer

The Sinner - Netflix drop Season 2 teaser for Bill Pullman drama

The Sinner

The Sinner Season 2 launches on Netflix UK on November 9, 2018 – and Netflix has just dropped a teaser trailer featuring Bill Pullman.

Season 2 lures Detective Harry Ambrose (Pullman) back to his hometown in rural New York to assess an unsettling and heart wrenching crime – parents murdered by their 11-year-old son, with no apparent motive.

As Ambrose realizes there’s nothing ordinary about the boy or where he came from, the investigation pulls him into the hidden darkness of his hometown.

He’s pitted against those who’ll stop at nothing to protect its secrets – and a mysterious woman who proves to be a complicated, enigmatic piece to this haunting puzzle.

Watch the teaser trailer

Aaron Paul joins Westworld's third season

Need For Speed

Story by Jack Foley

BREAKING Bad luminary Aaron Paul has joined the forthcoming third season of Westworld.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor will be a regular on the series – although, somewhat predictably, details of his character are being kept under wraps.

However, Paul will be the second Breaking Bad star to appear in Westworld, following Giancarlo Esposito, who had a memorable cameo in season two.

It will also be a couple of years before fans can expect to see how Paul shapes up in the series, given the length of time being taken between seasons.

The show’s sophomore run ended earlier this year, with series mainstays Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) having escaped into humanity, but that second run came two years after the first series.

Showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan do not want to rush the writing, which remains as complex as ever.

They have, however, promised a ‘radical shift’ for the series in season three.

Paul is currently filming the first season of the anthology series Are You Sleeping for Apple. He also starred in and produced Hulu’s series The Path.

Maniac (Emma Stone/Jonah Hill) - New Netflix trailer

Maniac

As a mysterious pharmaceutical trial takes a turn, Annie Landsberg (Emma Stone) and Owen Milgrim (Jonah Hill) form a connection that could save their lives.

Maniac premieres on Netflix on September 21, 2018.

Set in a world somewhat like our world, in a time quite similar to our time, Maniac tells the stories of Annie Landsberg (Emma Stone) and Owen Milgrim (Jonah Hill), two strangers drawn to the late stages of a mysterious pharmaceutical trial, each for their own reasons.

Annie’s disaffected and aimless, fixated on broken relationships with her mother and her sister; Owen, the fifth son of wealthy New York industrialists, has struggled his whole life with a disputed diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Neither of their lives have turned out quite right, and the promise of a new, radical kind of pharmaceutical treatment—a sequence of pills its inventor, Dr. James K. Mantleray (Justin Theroux), claims can repair anything about the mind, be it mental illness or heartbreak – draws them and ten other strangers to the facilities of Neberdine Pharmaceutical and Biotech for a three-day drug trial that will, they’re assured, with no complications or side-effects whatsoever, solve all of their problems, permanently.

Maniac also stars Trudie Styler, Jemima Kirke and Gabriel Byrne.

Things do not go as planned.

Watch the trailer

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The Ballad of Buster Scruggs - Netflix drop trailer for Coen Brothers' Western

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

THE Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a six-part Western anthology film, a series of tales about the American frontier told through the unique and incomparable voice of Joel and Ethan Coen.

Each chapter tells a distinct story about the American West.

The film, which received rave reviews when it debuted at the recent Venice Film Festival (where it won an award for best screenplay), boasts a star-studded line-up headed by Tim Blake Nelson and including James Franco, Liam Neeson, Zoe Kazan, Tom Waits, Stephen Root, Brendan Gleeson and Tyne Daly.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is on Netflix and in select theatres from November 16, 2018.

Watch the trailer