Monthly Archives: November, 2014

The Code (2014)

My review of the conspiracy thriller Australian TV series The Code is over at Flickering Myth and appears below…

the-code

The vast expanse of the Australian outback certainly looks like a beautiful and mystical place. From the spiritual majesty of Peter Weir’s Walkabout (1971) to the raw bestial horror of Wolf Creek (2005) and countless others, the cinema screen has striven to capture the mysterious depths and contours of this physically and psychically challenging landscape.

The Code (shown on BBC4 in the UK) is a TV show hoping to bring some of this largely cinematic vision to the small screen. And it succeeds, layering believable characterisation and motivation along with a build up of tension and dread as it progresses through its ‘who’s more corrupt than who?’ storyline

This form of who and whydunnit creates the perfect atmosphere to explore a range of different subjects. Following Canberra based online journalist Ned Banks (Spielman) and his computer hacker brother Jesse (Zukerman) as they try to find out just why they’ve been sent a video of a road accident deep in the outback, the story keeps the viewer gripped with tried and tested TV methods. It’s slick, it’s exciting and each 55 minute episode ends with an artfully produced cliff-hanger…

As the two brothers delve deeper into the mystery, aided and abetted by outback school teacher Alex (Lucy Lawless – yes, that Lucy Lawless of Xena and Spartacus fame), the contrasts between the wild almost unearthly (to European eyes at least) landscape of the outback and the seats of power in the Canberra government become ever more stark.

Much of this intrigue is captured though the use of smartphones and computers, and the show’s production takes a striking graphical approach to bringing the IT element out. As a geek-pleasing construct, the use of a ‘screen within a screen’ approach, showing off exactly what the tech wizards (mostly the Asperger’s Jesse) are up to online is a critical device. This devotion to top-level tech marks out the show as a world away from the 80’s and 90’s face of Oz Tv which largely came to these shores in the shape of Ramsey Street and Summer Bay.

The attention given to Jesse’s condition and the ability to largely get it right is also a success-story for the show. Rarely have forms of autism been shown in a realistic way in the popular media, and hopefully this sensitive and intelligent portrayal marks an overall maturing of the medium. After all, if the Scandinavians can get it right, why not the Australians?

All in all then, The Code provides plenty of food for thought both in sociological and political terms. An excellent modern thriller series – hopefully more will follow.

 

Allies (2014) Out Now

Review of WWII drama Allies is over at Flickering Myth and appears below. . .

allies-dvd

 

A film directed by Dominic Burns
Starring Julian Ovenden, Chris Reilly, Matt Willis, Edmund Kingsley, Leon Vickers, Frank Lebouef

Synopsis: It is 1944. A group of elite soldiers are called upon to infiltrate enemy lines and capture Nazi strategic plans…

 

As its title suggests, Allies concentrates on that familiar war drama trope of the brothers in arms comradeship that seems to develop inevitably during intense war time. Following a team of crack troops enlisted for specific operations during conflict and led by a French/American super soldier (the steely eyed Ovenden), the film is an entertaining enough look at life on the frontline.

Containing a decent turn from ex-pop star Willis as a Lahndahn gunner and the ex-footballer Lebouef as an unlikely Resistance leader (who, spoiler alert, lasts all of five minutes) Allies has something of a celebrity TV movie feel about it. This is not to detract from some of the genuinely well worked scenes on show, it is just that the narrative and a few of the performances has a slightly staid approach to them.

Nevertheless, the scenes between the committed main leader (Oveneden) and his broad-speaking second in command (Reilly) are well worked, alternately funny and insightful about the soldier’s experience.  An unlikely romantic union between the Scottish lieutenant and a French farmer’s daughter provides a realistic look at the kinds of liaisons that frequent developed under the extreme duress of wartime occupation.

This look at civilian (and armed) Resistance in France during WW2 gives an extra layer of historic value to the drama. Aside from this, much of the actual story is fairly disposable, consisting of stock methods and war time devices. In fact, I think I even heard a Wilhelm scream (look it up!) during one of the battle scenes. Oh well, as a whole, film is a largely likeable project with its heart in the right place and it develops some interesting personable scenes between the main players.