Sunday, 13 July 2014

True Detective: Season 1

I didn't know what to expect from True Detective. While the premise was rather interesting, I initially couldn't get past the fact that Matthew McConaughey was one of its lead stars. While this might have been a legitimate worry in the days when McConaughey starred in trash like Sahara and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, with recent great performances behind him like Mud and Dallas Buyers Club, my opinion of him changed quite quickly. So with my McConaughey phobia behind me, I stepped into the world of True Detective; the freshest, darkest and most fascinating TV series in years.

Written by Nic Pizzolatto, developed by HBO and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes True Detective, a series that will grab your attention so tight so that it will be impossible not to binge watch it. Set amid the dreary backdrop of Vermilion Parish, Louisiana, True Detective, both visually and thematically, places a heavy emphasis on the land, the people and the close minded and secretive nature of its setting. Taking place in the two different time periods of 1995 and 2012, both of which slowly cast revelations on the series' characters, this is a detective story in every meaning of the word, even for the viewer! Firstly, in 1995 (this is where most of the series takes place) we are introduced to Martin Hart and Rustin Cohle, two detectives recently assigned to each other for a new murder case that has sprung up.

The first victim is former prostitute Dora Kelly Lange, and her body has been elaborately presented in a burnt crop field, complete with markings, symbols and animal skulls. It all has a very occult feel to it, and with the basic clues and a great disdain for each other at hand, Hart and Cohle begin work at brining the person responsible to justice. This 1995 time period is a retelling of how Hart and Cohle solved the case, which is told from both Hart and Cohle's perspective in 2012, while being interviewed by two detectives. However, here's the kicker, in 2012 the murders have started again, despite Hart and Cohle finding their man in 1995. Though True Detective starts out a simple “whodunnit”, it escalates into mystery, suspense and plot twists that will leave your head spinning. Through expertly weaving together two time periods, True Detective slowly reveals the truth to the viewer, in all its disturbing, terrifying and cryptic glory.

The first thing that stood out to me about True Detective was its setting. The series presents Vermillion Parish in Louisiana as a desolate, empty and bleak landscape, while the excellent soundtrack in place only further hits this home. This setting only makes the series creepier, because as you sit there you think that these murders could happen in the place like this... and that no one would ever know. This beautiful visual presentation is of course is backed up by a truly stellar cast. Woody Harrelson plays the role of Hart brilliantly, a religious family man that often falters to certain temptations, while Matthew McConaughey's Cohle is the stand out performance here, with all of his nihilistic, bleak and atheism-laden monologues being especially fantastic. Both men are absolute polar opposites, but ultimately find a common ground in the face on unspeakable evil. A master-class of acting, and a new level of excellence for TV.

The bonus features on offer here, though nowhere nearly as plentiful as they should be, are highly entertaining. They include:

Making True Detective – A behind-the-scenes feature which includes interviews with the cast and crew, including  Harrelson and  McConaughey.

A Conversation with Nic Pizzolatto and T-Bone Burnett – An interview with writer Nic Pizzolatto and T-Bone Burnett, composer of the series. While Pizzolatto's thoughts on the series are of course vital, Burnett's take on how he forged the sound-scape of Vermillion Parish is highly interesting.

Up Close with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson – Interviews with the two leading men of True Detective. 

Inside the Episode – Writer Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Joji Fukunaga delve into insights into episodes and various character development arcs throughout the series.

Two audio commentaries – Featuring Nic Pizzolatto, T-Bone Burnett and Executive Producer Scott Stephens.

Deleted Scenes – As expected from any self respecting BluRay/DVD, this feature showcases a few deleted scenes.

Overall True Detective is incredible. From it's intricate and plot twist drenched story, excellent cast, beautiful landscapes, very Twin Peaks-like mood and one jaw dropping 6-minute single camera tracking shot, this is your next series to watch. If you manage to not binge watch it you'll concoct theories between episodes, work out important connections between characters and ultimately get utterly lost in its world. Watch it.

True Detective solves the case and gets a perfect 5/5.


Denis Murphy

True Detective at CeX

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