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Inside Man

by Paul Levinson 29 days ago in tv review
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Never Seen Anything Like It -- You Should Too

So, I just binged Inside Man on Netflix. It's easy to binge, it's only four episodes. But, more important, it's a verging on insane, fast ride of a murder story -- actually more than one murder story -- and it touches on all kinds of life and death issues. It also probes the meaning of parental love, and even has some lethal comedy throw in. Truth is, I've never seen anything like. And you should, too. It's that good, that unique, and memorable in all kinds of ways.

The two main murder stories detail the trials and tribulations a vicar (Harry Watling, played by David Tennant) and his son and wife in England, caught up in one of his flock's predilections for child pornography, and a convicted murderer (Jefferson Grieff, played by Stanley Tucci) on death row with just a few weeks left to go in the United States. Their two stories basically have nothing to do with each other, but they're made to connect in the narrative.

Jefferson is the slightly more unusual and compelling character -- a condemned man who's working his last days as a brilliant criminologist, a genius who delights in dispensing advice to other criminals, or people caught up in the criminal system -- but Harry is riveting, too, as a passionate vicar who takes his professional obligations seriously, but nonetheless gets deeper and deeper into the hell of impossible choices as he desperately tries keep his family out of harm's way.

Janice Fife (well played by Dolly Wells, whom I don't recall seeing before -- it goes without saying that Tennant and Tucci play their roles to the hilt) is the victim in the U.K. part of the story, and somehow manages to combine being ebullient, highly intelligent, and dislikeable at the same time, even though she did nothing to deserve her poor treatment. And the lesser characters are impressive all the way down, as well. The vicar's son Ben (played by Louis Oliver, son of Steven Moffat, who wrote Inside Man -- if his name sounds familiar, he wrote the screenplay for the ill-fated but excellent recent Time Traveler's Wife ) gave a pivotal performance, and it was good to see Atkins Estimond (from Hightown) back in intellectual action as Jefferson's neighbor on death row. Also worthy of honorable mention were Lyndsey Marshal as Mary the vicar's wife, and Lydia West as Beth, a reporter who spends time on both sides of the Atlantic in this transatlantic tale, the connective tissue in this hurricane of a story.

Hey, no real spoilers in this review -- I somehow managed to control myself this time -- but, trust me, if you've read this far, you'll be shocked when you're not on the edge of your seat, which will be just about every minute in every scene of every episode. But speaking of reviews, you know, I gotta say that the few I've just read offered not enough praise for this rollercoaster blockbuster of a limited series. As so often happens, I disagree with these myopic critics. They nitpick at presumed holes in the plot which actually are explicitly addressed in the series. (But sticking to my non-spoiler policy for this review, you'll need to see the series to know just what I'm talking about.)

Stephen Moffat and Paul McGuigan (he directed) have offered a story I won't soon forget. If you're interested in the ethics of capital punishment (I'm against it, because too many innocent people have been put to death, later exonerated by the real killer's confession or DNA), or what genuinely loving parents are willing to do to others to protect a child, you won't be likely to soon forget Inside Man, either.

tv review

About the author

Paul Levinson

Novels include The Silk Code & The Plot To Save Socrates; LPs Twice Upon A Rhyme & Welcome Up; nonfiction includes Fake News in Real Context, The Soft Edge, & Digital McLuhan translated into 15 languages. Details here. Prof, Fordham Univ.

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