Tuesday 10 July 2018

Genius: Einstein ★★★★☆

Anthology TV programmes are all the rage these days. I guess it makes sense – telling shorter stories that don’t require several seasons but still maintaining a brand is an effective way to grow an audience. Just look at American Horror Story – an enormously successful horror series with a fresh story each year. American Crime Story is picking up steam now, after tackling the OJ Simpson case and the Versace murder. Now, we find ourselves in the presence of yet another anthology series. Genius promises to delve into the life of a different ‘genius’ each year, be it an artist, scientist, or anybody else that deserves the title. The show’s debut season covered the life of Albert Einstein.

In a similar format to the utterly magnificent Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy, this 10-part series chronicles two periods in the life of Albert Einstein: the first as a patent clerk struggling to gain a teaching position and doctorate (played by Johnny Flynn), the second as a scientist respected for his development of the theory of relativity (played by Geoffrey Rush). Nominated for 10 Primetime Emmy awards and a Golden Globe for Rush, the show walked away empty-handed. But did it deserve more glory?

From executive producers and Oscar-winners Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, the show serves as National Geographic’s first ever scripted series. With Howard directing the show’s first episode, this is a series of enormous visual quality and the acting talent on offer is certainly a thing to be admired. Geoffrey Rush is absolutely phenomenal in the role of the wild-haired Einstein we all know and love and is possibly one of the greatest bits of casting in recent years. Johnny Flynn, an incredibly talented young actor, does a very good job as the young Einstein but without the Einstein look we know and love, it isn’t quite as thrilling a performance. Seeing Rush make the old Einstein walk and talk is a sight to behold, after years at school looking at old black & white photos of the man.

Costume, make-up, setting and a wonderful score (with contributions from Hans Zimmer) transport the viewer to Einstein’s time with great aplomb; this is certainly a lavish and well-crafted piece of work. But while it is an engrossing enough viewing experience throughout, there isn’t a particular USP or anything to make this stand out from the extremely crowded medium of television. 10 parts do mean that, while the show covers a lot of ground, it is a rather large commitment when you consider a lot of these mini-series shows can tell their stories in half the time.

But there’s no denying that this is a show of quality. The acting and directing are pretty stellar across the board, and the show chronicles the life of a man who has largely been ignored in the great world of biographical entertainment. I certainly can’t think of any films or shows that have told his story before, outside of the documentary genre anyway. Here’s a man who certainly lives up to the show’s title and is a perfect figure for the debut season of a show entitled “Genius”. If you find yourself with 10 hours to spare and absolutely no idea what to do with them, give this a go. You could do worse.
Genius: Einstein is a well-crafted and brilliantly performed chronicle of the life of a man who truly lives up to the show’s title. 

Sam Love

Genius: Einstein at CeX

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