DIRECTV customers may have already seen it, since the provider’s Audience Network (Channel 239) acquired and aired The Shadow Line (the 2011 seven-part BBC drama serial that starred Chiwetel Ejiofor) in February.
For the rest of you here in the USA who want to see it in its best quality, you should know that it’s available on Blu-ray for $45.
In it Ejiofor stars as Detective Inspector Jonah Gabriel, who suffers from amnesia, thanks to a bullet lodged in his brain, which leaves him doubtful of his own moral compass and his colleagues regard him with suspicion. Gabriel is on his first case, since being shot during a botched police operation that left his partner dead. He’s now been assigned to investigate the murder of a drug baron, and has to follow an increasingly complicated line of investigation, all the while wondering whether he can trust anyone, not least, himself.
Here’s the BBC’s breakdown:
From the cop with a bullet in his brain, whose amnesia leaves him doubtful of his own moral compass; to the drug-lord driven by a profound personal tragedy, risking it all on one last deal; to the brilliantly lethal puppet-master who gradually emerges from the shadows to bring the story to its shocking climax – The Shadow Line explores the morality of these characters as they negotiate the repercussions of Wratten’s death and attempt to navigate the fine line between right and wrong. As the thread around Wratten’s operation begins to unravel, the web of intrigue becomes more complex – and the question of which side of the line they stand on becomes increasingly blurred. An intelligent and gripping conspiracy thriller that delves to the heart of human morality, The Shadow Line will have audiences enthralled over seven taut and thrilling episodes. Faced with similar dilemmas, on which side of the line would you stand?
The 7-episode series, which originally aired in the UK in May 2011, was written, produced and directed by Hugo Blick.
What does Chiwetel say we should expect from the new series – those who haven’t seen it anyway?
“I think it’s something that’s thrilling and engaging. It’s got really great writing in it and I think it’s going to look amazing and pretty beautiful. You’ve just got to follow the twists and turns as they happen. I think it’s a really exciting and engaging piece of drama,” he said in a BBC press release.
UK audiences have obviously already seen The Shahow Line!
Reviews from the UK press were mixed.
From The Telegraph: “… To you and me, this may sound like the makings of a moderately promising thriller. To Blick, though, it clearly represents something much more significant – which is why the writing and directing apparently need to be laden down with such deep portentousness. Almost all the characters speak to each other in solemn little aphorisms. “Truth’s like lightning,” said the older of the cops in hairnets at the start, “it always finds the line of least resistance.” “Even if you drew your last breath on the Titanic,” Gabriel’s boss told a rather baffled press conference, “you still woke up that morning to a beautiful day. As for the direction, that tends to emphasise the profound importance of what we’re seeing by providing telling close-ups of, say, people’s feet coming out of car doors – as if nobody had thought of doing that before. Or by reminding us of the title by regularly filming people silhouetted against white backgrounds. Or simply by making. Things. Happen. Very. Slowly.“
From The Dabbler: “The cast is mixed. Rafe Spall is absurdly mannered and unconvincing as a psycho gangster, but Christopher Ecclestone is good, and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Inspector Jonah Gabriel (pity about the thudding Bible-reference name), who is assigned the case despite having a bullet in his head which has erased crucial chunks of his memory, does his best with a script that screams “Look at me! I’m a clever script!”, and a direction that demands everyone act as slowly and gnomically as possible. ‘Pinter-esque’ is the obvious comparison. I don’t like Pinter, but if you do, you might get more than me out of The Shadow Line. Stephen Rea and Antony Sher haven’t even appeared yet, so it’ll still be worth giving them a chance to rescue it over coming episodes, and the no doubt highly-twisty plot might well entangle us yet. I don’t want to hammer this too much because the BBC has done what it’s so often accused of failing to do: taken a bold risk on an auteur. But then the problem with bold risk-taking is that you’re just as likely to end up with a turkey as an award-winner, especially if making a big, portentous drama and allowing one clever artiste to script, direct and produce.”
From The Arts Desk: “Everyone thus far seems inclined to talk knowingly, even metatextually, as if channelling some deeper awareness of their reincarnated roles in some crime commedia dell’arte… The created world feels somehow so familiar, the dialogue spoken so winkingly, that I half expected Danny Dyer to walk into shot clutching a copy of early Pinter… Yet at the heart of the drama are two performances of carefully contrived stillness and it’s on these more than any other that the camera will be keeping an eye. Eccleston’s angular northern mug, so often given over to lashings of angry passion, has found an intriguing new use for itself as a poker face. You wouldn’t have him down as a villain, which is of course the point. As for Ejiofor, who carries the sorrow of the world in his eyes, he looks a bit too sensitive for police work at this stage.“
And finally, from Cult Box: “Appropriately, given that it begins with the discovery of a body, the opening episode of The Shadow Line moves at a pace that’s almost funereal, although that isn’t to say it’s boring. It’s simply slow – methodical, even – the plot unfolding so gradually that the movement is barely palpable. It’s something refreshingly rare in British-made police dramas: the story has room to breathe. Despite its gentle pacing, and the familiar hierarchical structure of the principal police officers… this is no ordinary cop drama. It’s brutal, unflinching and actually rather nasty in a way that British police shows rarely are. In fact, with its washed-out, almost monochromatic visuals and its protracted length – seven episodes – it’s more in keeping with imported European shows such as The Killing or Spiral. If it builds on the promise of this first episode, its place in such exalted company will be assured.“
Like I said, mixed; but I’d like to read what those of you who have seen it, thought of it.
For the rest of us Stateside, head over to Amazon and pick up the season on Blu-ray. It’s not on Netflix… yet.
Here’s the trailer for The Shadow Line: