BINGE-R #79: Collateral + The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel + Ravenous
Streaming Service: Netflix
Availability: All four episodes now streaming
Instead of just burrowing down into the murder on the London streets that launches it, the British crime thriller Collateral also billows outwards, taking stock of the nation’s traditional centres of authority – the armed forces, the Church of England, Westminster’s politicians – and finding them fractured by 21st century realities. “It comes down to people,” Kip Glaspie (Carey Mulligan), the investigating police officer, tells a wary witness, and throughout this sharply penned (and compact) series it’s individuals who have to make crucial judgments and decisions, often with no clean outcome to be grasped, in the face of institutional failings. Guilt spreads like burning oil on water in such compromised circumstances.
When pizza delivery man Abdullah Asif (Sam Otto) is professionally executed exiting an apartment building, Kip discovers that he was a refugee, smuggled into Britain with his family, while the customer who answered the door to him, Karen Mars (Billie Piper), was expecting more than fast food. The story unfolds from multiple angles, including Karen’s former husband, a Labour MP chafing at his party’s centrist policies, David Mars (John Simm), and the Vietnamese student, Linh Xuan Huy (Kae Alexander), who caught a glimpse of the shooter while high, and her partner, local reverend Jane Oliver (Nicola Walker).
There’s a pungent crispness to the exchanges between Kip and her offsider, Nathan Bilk (Nathaniel Martello-White), but playwright and screenwriter David Hare (Plenty, The Hours), back on television after decades away, isn’t interested in a procedural. He provides answers early and them scrutinises them for moral complications – the killer’s identity is revealed at the end of the first episode, but the second episode completely reverses your expectations via withering detail. While Linh is worried about co-operating because of her uncertain residential status, in reality nearly every character here is struggling to secure their place.
Director S.J. Clarkson (Jessica Jones) does exemplary work. The textures of the night-time shoot in the first episode are captivating, and she delivers information on power and loyalty with visual precision. She also frames Carey Mulligan, who like Hare rarely does television, so that her ability to reveal exactly what Kip perceives is palpable. The Suffragette and Drive star never overplays her central role, and it’s only at the conclusion that you realise just what Kip has fought for. In Collateral every interrogation is a dialogue about belief and every dialogue about belief is an interrogation. You should savour every minute of this richly involving drama.
In Brief: THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL S1 (Amazon): Empowerment goes hand in hand with highwire energy and dialogue volleyed back and forth in this pleasurable period comedy-drama about a New York housewife whose quick wit makes her one of the first female stand-up comics. Miriam ‘Midge’ Maisel (the terrific Rachel Brosnahan) is introduced to the downtown comedy clubs of 1958 Greenwich Village by her businessman husband Joel (Michael Zegen), but when his comedy career tanks and he leaves her, it’s Midge who draws applause when she drunkenly takes the stage and riffs on her predicament as a good Jewish girl whose life has just imploded. Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls), the show’s gorgeous period detail is almost fantasy bright, but the family squabbles with outrageous parents and historic touches – Midge gets advice from Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) – combine to explore the idea of how to truly express yourself. Every time Midge performs it’s like switching on an electrical current.
Ravenous (Netflix, 2017, 103 minutes): If you’re perplexed that The Walking Dead is somehow still on air and generally feel done with zombie stories, this deathly quiet French-Canadian horror film might just change your mind. Ravenous is at once part of the zombie canon – here the undead run, and memorably scream, but otherwise they’ve destroyed civilisation with their desire for flesh and they’re still put down with a head shot – yet also detached from it in a way that’s almost as fatalistic as the living characters. Set in Quebecois farming country, the story’s survivors group together after opening scenes that have an unsettling brevity; “when it’s your wife,” one survivor tells another, “you think twice”. Director Robin Aubert knows his genre beats, repeatedly building nerve-shredding tension, but he raises it not only with geyser-like gore but also sudden monologues, inexplicable tableaus and even a Zombieland-inspired gag. At first glance these zombies look unaffected by their transformation, which ties into Aubert’s theme: at what point do the living match the undead?
New on Netflix: What We Do in the Shadows (2014, 85 minutes) sees Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi having great fun with a silly concept: a New Zealand mockumentary about a vampire share house; George Miller’s original automotive anarchy, Mad Max (1979, 93 minutes), remains a prime Australian road(kill) movie: revved-up and raging.
New on SBS On Demand: One of Merchant Ivory’s best: the heartfelt period romance A Room With a View (1985, 112 minutes) featuring Helena Bonham-Carter, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Julian Sands; Jude Law and Ben Mendelsohn in Black Sea (2014, 110 minutes), a deep sea diving thriller about the divisiveness of greed.
New on Stan: Brutal B-movie mayhem with Salma Hayek as a woman facing off with Tokyo gangsters in the action flick Everly (2014, 93 minutes); Christian Bale plays a Pennsylvania steel worker searching for his criminally-connected brother in the bruising drama Out of the Furnace (2013, 117 minutes).
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