Wow. After a very weak episode last week, it is wonderful to be immersed within Silent Witness when it is at its most potent. This show has always worked best when it provides a platform for daring, inspired and visually adventurous directors and writers to create films that do something interesting with a collection of new and familiar characters. This is what the show did tonight. From being one of the silliest programmes on the small screen last week, it has switched to become one of the best and most immersive pieces of work on any size screen. Its transformation was mesmerising.
The film, written by Graham Mitchell, opens up with a hellish sequence set on a remote estate. A domestic quarrel ends in brutality as a young boy observes two adults – presumably his parents – argue in the house, then the female of the two runs through a field in attempt to get away from the adult male. A crash, a knife wound, and then we were into the opening credits and a strange, trippy and at times terrifying story began. At first there was seemingly no connection between this tale about a man stalking and killing people on the London underground and the pre-credits sequence. But there is (in a clever twist, it turns out it was a memory from one of the lead detectives – Richard Rankin, pictured below). And I have a feeling it is going to return to play a big part in Part II.
Compared to last week’s dull, run-of-the-mill, utterly preposterous story, this week’s two-parter is ticking all the right boxes. Adopting a similar device perfected in shows such as Prime Suspect, Cracker and most recently Alan Cubitt’s masterpiece The Fall, this story – named Falling Angels – allowed us to observe the killer going about his business. He is apparently a homeless man who has been taken in by an attractive young woman (Leila Mimmack – a quiet revelation). A number of standout scenes in the dramas are long, beautifully lit sequences with an orange glow, shot entirely within her apartment as they get to know each other, both through kindness, friendship and sexuality. The atmosphere and look of these moments, which were commendably unhurried, reminded me of Paweł Pawlikowski’s film My Summer of Love, or even Kieran Evans’s memorable debut feature Kelly + Victor. Newfound love with a dangerous edge has always been a famous feature of storytelling. With this story Director Craig Viveiros managed to make the experience feel new all over again.
Jack Roth, in the role as the killer, contributes a palpable sense of menace to the episode; something he always manages to do when his characters demand it (and, without wishing to be unkind to Mr Roth, his face seems to lend itself well to playing scary young men). Another notable highlight is Scottish actor Richard Rankin as the aforementioned detective with the traumatic childhood. His work here conveys a depth of emotion and vulnerability rarely allowed to flourish in the stupid-copper-of-the-week archetypes Silent Witness is often guilty of wheeling in. His role has given him the opportunity to make something special out of this change in tac, something he beautifully exploits to his advantage.
The closing moments of this opening episode must be some of the most arresting 2015 will see: the two young lovers, now united in the vicious cruelty Roth’s character has been revelling in, stand on top of a block of flats and watch the sun set whilst a fire of bloodstained pieces of evidence burns next to them. James Blake’s haunting song ‘Retrograde’ was played over the scene and the resulting marriage of DoP James Friend’s searing cinematography and Blake’s strange, other-worldly music was nothing short of breathtaking.
Silent Witness: Falling Angels, Part 1 is available to watch for a limited time on BBC iPlayer. Images: BBC/BBC iPlayer.
This review is published in association with The National Student. www.thenationalstudent.com
From being one of the silliest programmes on the small screen last week, it has switched to become one of the best and most immersive pieces of work on any size screen. Mesmerising.