Labyrinth, Channel 4, Episodes 1 & 2 review ★★☆☆☆

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It will probably sound like I’m slagging this two-part drama off big time here, but the truth is I love this kind of thing. Trashy, big budget, international co-productions in a period setting. They are such a joy. Multiple episodes featuring obvious villains, risible dialogue and over-the-top acting. What more could you want? Oh, and sex. Lots of sex and naked flesh. This lavish but silly adaptation of Kate Mosse’s huge novel of the same name tells an absurd story that manages to be both stupid and patronising whilst being unfathomably complex. It’s quite an art.

I read Mosse’s book on a long flight to New York about seven years ago. I can’t stay it particularly stuck in the mind, and neither will this TV version, really. But, if you fancy some blood and breasts, it’s fun while it lasts.

It’s been adapted by screenwriter Anthony Hodges, a writer of such talent (responsible for films My Week with Marilyn and the BBC’s The Ruby in the Smoke) that one has to assume he took on this job as a joke and gleefully wrote LOL in the margins of the script. The plot tells the story of two women connected through time, joined by their destinies, paired by fate, bound by truth…..you get the idea. One is a beautiful archaeologist in modern times, played by Vanessa Kirby (why are they always so gorgeous in movies, yet never in real life?), the other a woman from olden times (Jessica Brown Findlay, a.k.a. Lady Sybil from Downton Abbey) who has to contend with some bad medieval shit that’s going down. They are connected by conspiracies that go back many hundreds of years in Carcassonne, France.

The cast is terrific. As well as Kirby, and Lady Sybil, we have John Hurt (what is he doing here?), Morgana from Merlin, Moray from The Pradise and a so-hot-it-should-be-like-illegal hunk from Gossip Girl. Draco Malfoy also turns up with the world’s worst hair and does a good job of showing how preposterous the script actually sounds when spoken aloud. Hurt does barely anything for most of it, but if I ever needed someone to stare wistfully into the distance (and the cast of Silent Witness were unavailable) I would turn to Hurt. He does it with aplomb.

Funded by Germany and South Africa, with some help from France and Britain (including Ridley and Tony Scott), this has all the hallmarks of an overblown, over-the-top, over-sexed period drama. It’s the silliest thing I’ve seen since The Tudors, and I watched it with the same level of bewilderment and guilty pleasure as I did that series.

Labyrinth (2012), directed by Christopher Smith, is available for a limited time on 4oD and Sky OnDemand. It is released on DVD in the UK on 8 April by Universal Pictures, Certificate 15.

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Second year BA Film & English Student. Watches too many films and enjoys good novels.

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