Friday, 8 January 2016

Unforgotten

In this so-called Golden Age of television, there’s something fairly noticeable about the ‘shows of the moment’ - Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, True Detective, Fargo, etc. - they’re all American productions. With the exception of the vastly overrated Sherlock, British television is unfortunately going by unnoticed recently. Besides, the last time I dedicated myself to a British programme was BBC’s The Missing, an incredibly engrossing thriller/drama that kicked its audience in the balls with one of the worst endings in TV history. Since then, I’ve been afraid to commit to another show like it. Out now on DVD and created by Chris Lang comes Unforgotten, a series that truly reminds us how good British television can be. 


Granted, the plot doesn’t exactly sound fresh. Police find the bones of a young man in the footings of a demolished house, which they quickly deduce is from a 39-year old murder. DCI Cassie Stuart (Nicola Walker) and DS Sunil Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar) are assigned to the case, and soon discover a wide ensemble of suspicious folk played by some of Britain’s finest talents – Bernard Hill, Tom Courtenay and Ruth Sheen to name but a few. In true whodunit fashion, each of these sods seem to get increasingly suspicious with each passing episode and your theories will fly all over the place, with “he did it” and “she did it” and “they all did it” floating around your mind constantly. But what makes Unforgotten any different to any other cold case drama?


Firstly, the cast are just phenomenal. Walker and Bhaskar are decent enough as the two detectives, but this isn’t about them. They merely represent the audience, picking apart each of the suspect’s stories and making theories as they investigate with us. It is these suspects who earn the majority of the screen-time, and like in Rockstar’s video game L.A. Noire, we almost feel like we have to hit a button when we think someone’s lying. To reveal why these characters are suspicious would be to spoil twists in the tale, but the main characters you will be analysing are Sir Phillip Cross (Trevor Eve), Father Robert Greaves (Bernard Hill), Eric Slater (Tom Courtenay) and Lizzie Wilton (Ruth Sheen). Each of these characters are impeccably performed, with a special mention in particular for Courtenay who commands the viewer’s attention in every scene. Eve and Hill are also flawless, and the lovely Ruth Sheen puts in a performance that further cements her role as one of my favourite actresses working today. Watching Unforgotten is almost like playing a game, as you try and ‘beat it’ by correctly guessing the killer.

Unforgotten is a beautifully shot series, too. From the gorgeous opening credits chillingly set to Oh Wonder’s All We Do, you know this is going to be a strong production. The cinematography is very cinematic but still has that British TV feel, and the pacing is perfect. The story takes place over six 45 minute episodes, and there isn’t a dull moment. Each twist and turn comes at the right time, each episode ends on a cliffhanger that leaves you wanting more, and the big reveal comes with power and emotion. As happens with every single whodunit, there were some critics who were disappointed. Probably just angry that their theory was incorrect, and the show ‘beat them’. In any case, if you trust my word, let me tell you that the ending is brilliant. Perhaps not perfect, but far better than I expected. Yes, there are a couple of loose-ends, but this is life. When you see it, you’ll understand. It couldn’t end any other way.


Ultimately, Unforgotten has a strong message. Like I said when I was describing the plot, again, it isn’t particularly original but it’s a message that never loses power – the past won’t stay buried forever. Past mistakes will catch up with you. As we watch the lives of all of the suspects unravel in the series we realise that it doesn’t matter who did the crime. Everyone is being punished. That is Unforgotten. I started this show without much in the expectations department, but quite honestly was blown away by the production. The acting across the board was breath-taking, the writing was a marvel and the cinematic feel made it seem like more than just an ITV drama. A second series has been confirmed. I will certainly be tuning in.

Unforgotten maybe isn’t quite unforgettable, but it’s a bloody fantastic drama and one of the best things on British television in years. 4/5.

★★★★☆

Sam Love


Unforgotten at CeX


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