True Detective – Season 1

HBO's "True Detective" Season 1 / Director: Cary FukunagaHBO’s latest offering brough us Matthew Mconaughey and Woody Harrelson as two homicide detectives involved in a dark case. With the initial murder taking place back in 1995 the show flits between then and now. Mconaughey’s Rust Cohle and Harrelson’s Marty Hart are first time partners on the original case but in the modern day Rust has gone off the rails and is a chain-smoking alcoholic, and the pair haven spoken for years. Being interviewed separately about the case they believed to have been solved seventeen years ago but another body has been found. All eight episodes of the season are written by Nic Pizzolatto and directed by Cary Fukunaga giving the series an overall style and feel that many shows can’t manage as a collaborative medium.

It’s true that there are a lot of detective shows out there, in all different shapes and forms television has always been obsessed with murder investigations and dirty cops. So the question is why should True Detective be the one you watch? Well, where to begin. The most staggering thing about this series is the quality of the writing. It’s a very dialogue heavy show, which may not suit everyone, but this provides an excellent basis for character development and it doesn’t take long before you see these two A-List movie stars as their characters. Pizzolatto’s scripts are deliciously dark with very little in the way of happiness but he has a real knack for creating flawed protagonists that are still likeable if, at times, questionably immoral. As the tension of the investigation builds so does the action, which is handled ridiculously well by Fukunaga, you may have seen around that episode four (perhaps the greatest hour hour of television you will see for a long, long time) features a six-minute unbroken tracking shot during an undercover mission where, to put it bluntly, shit hits the fan making the show every bit as exciting and cool as any blockbuster movie you’ll go and see. And of course, none of this greatness could have been achieved without a cast to match and Mconaughey and Harrelson deliver some of the best performances of both their careers. Mcounaghey, of late, has become the most exciting actor around and his turn here is probably equal to that of his Oscar winning portrayal in Dallas Buyers Club. Harrelson is just as good, neither of the two ever steal the attention and instead manage to create this very real volatile relationship with each other.

Television is improving at such an astonishing rate that we will soon never be without top quality shows like this. True Detective shows us just how far TV drama has come in recent years and brings with it some of the best stuff you will see on your screens this year. let’s hope they don’t ruin it with a lacklustre second season because this is damn near perfection.

 

Sin Nombre

 

While flicking through the Netflix catalogue for the past few months I’ve always had a little look at Sin Nombre and thought, should definitely watch that at some point, but not right now. I would be lying if I didn’t say that the reason for wanting to watch it was because the cover looked pretty similar to City of God, the themes too. But maybe that goes some way to explaining why Sin Nombre hasn’t been made as much of a big deal out of, because it’s so similar to one of the greatest films of all time. But that’s an unfair judgement because Sin has an entire story to tell of it’s own.

Focussing on two sets of people from Mexico, one a father with his brother and daughter trying to break into America and start a new, better life in New Jersey, the other two brothers who are part of a brutal street gang. The paths of these lives meet somewhere in the middle and some sparks fly. The story itself is perhaps not a whole world away from the aforementioned City of God but it’s in it’s characters that Sin Nombre finds it’s own feet. Each character good or bad we see their human side and feel as though we know what they’re thinking – excluding the vile second-in-command of the gang, El Sol. But we feel for everyone involved and it’s to the writers merit that they are so fleshed out in a running time that only just sneaks over 90 minutes. Said running time, I found, is another strength, it means it’s concise to just the right level, so you’re never bored yet never overloaded.

Furthermore, the split of focus on the two groups of people shows the vast contrast of characters that can be found in these poverty-stricken areas, whereas most other films based on them tend to not look any further than within the gangs. It provides more of insight into the fact that not everyone in these areas has to be in a gang to survive, but at the same time shows how hard it is to live without people watching your back. When it comes down it I end up wishing the film wasn’t quite so similar to City of God because if it wasn’t for that film this film would be so much more of a culturally defining film, but it won’t ever get what it deserved, unfortunately. Still, go watch it.