Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Movie Review: The Red Riding Trilogy

The Red Riding Trilogy ****
Directed By:
Julian Jarrod (1974), James Marsh (1980) & Anaud Tucker (1983)
Written by: Tony Grioni based on the novels by David Peace.
Starring: Andrew Garfield (Eddie Dunford), David Morrissey (Maurice Jobson), Mark Addy (John Piggott), Paddy Considine (Peter Hunter), Peter Mullan (Martin Laws), Robert Sheehan (BJ), Eddie Marsan (Jack Whitehead), Warren Clarke (Bill Molloy), Sean Bean (John Dawson), Sean Harris (Bob Craven), Maxine Peake (Helen Marshall), Rebecca Hall (Paula Garland), Anthony Flanagan (Barry Gannon), Berwick Kaler (George Greaves), Chris Walker (Jim Prentice), Daniel Mays (Michael Myshkin), Gary Whitaker (Jim Kelly), John Henshaw (Bill Hadley), Ron Cook (Clement Smith), Saskia Reeves (Mandy Wymer), Shaun Dooley (Dick Alderman), Steven Robertson (Bob Fraser), Joseph Mawle (The Ripper), Tony Mooney (Tommy Douglas), Michelle Dockery (Kathryn Tyler), Gerard Kearns (Leonard Cole), Hilton McRae (Clive McGuiness), Catherine Tyldesley (Tessa), Cathryn Bradshaw (Marjorie Dawson), Beatrice Kelley (Mrs Myshkin).

David Peace’s masterful four part literary series about corruption and violence in Yorkshire region in Northern England over the course of a decade has made its way to the screen in this trilogy. The movies cut out one of Peace’s books (1977), and has shortened down the other three, yet have perfectly captured the spirit of the novels. The Yorkshire region was crawling with corruption between 1974 and 1983. It didn’t matter if it was the Yorkshire ripper killing women, or an unknown murderer of little girls, the police and the media used these to mask their own corruption that is rotting them for the inside out. Every time someone tried to step in and expose the truth, they were treated to a series of escalating events that ultimately led to their lives and families in ruins, before climaxing in their own deaths. And perhaps they were corrupted along the way themselves. The movies, which make up about 5 hours of running time, have a huge, epic scope, dozens of speaking roles, and paints a picture of massive corruption. The Yorkshire Ripper acts as a good study of the area at the time – he may be murdering women he considered to be “unclean” (ie prostitutes), but all the men in these movies are essentially do the same thing to the women in their lives, but not in such a direct way.

The first part of the trilogy, 1974, centers of Eddie Dunford (Andrew Garfield), a young reporter from the Yorkshire post who has moved to the area from down South, where things are done differently, When a little girl goes missing, he sees similarities to two previous cases – one in 1969 and the other 1972 – about two young girls who disappeared in a similar manner, but were never found. He probes deeper and deeper into the investigation, especially when the latest girl is found is a drainage ditch with swan wings stitched to her back. His investigation brings him into contact with the police, and a real estate mogul, John Dawson (Sean Bean), who seems to be protected from on high. His life slowly starts to unravel when he gets involved with Paula Garland (Rebecca Hall), who has ties to Dawson, and is also the mother of one of the missing girls. Someone, perhaps a lot of someone’s, do not want him to find out what happened, and the movie ends in a blood drenched shootout.

The second part, 1980, centers on Peter Hunter (Paddy Considine), a police officer, also from the South like Eddie was. He was brought in 1974 to investigate the shootout that ended that movie, but never got to finish his investigation. Now he is brought in to oversee the Ripper case, which by then has stretched on for more than five years, and now has more than a dozen murders to investigate. He is not only tasked with finding the Ripper himself, but also to look into the investigation itself, and see if the police had screwed up anywhere. Like Eddie, the more he uncovers, the more complicated his life gets, as his relationship with his wife is threatened, and his affair with an fellow officier (Maxine Peak) becomes public knowledge. Like Eddie, there seems to be no way out for Peter.

The final part, 1983, focuses on three different protagonists. One is John Piggot (Mark Addy), an overweight, disgraced attorney, with a dead cop for a father, who is asked by the mother of the mentally challenged man convicted of the child murders that took place in 1974, to appeal the decision, which draws even more attention when another little girl goes missing. As he digs deeper, like Eddie and Peter before him, he doesn’t like what he finds. Another character is BJ (Robert Sheenan), who we met in both previous chapters. He is a young male prostitute who seems to access to all sorts of information involving the child murders, the Ripper and the shootout at the end of 1974, but he has become increasingly paranoid about his own safety (with good reason), and has mentally snapped. But the movie mainly focuses on Maurice Jobson (David Morrissey), a senior police officier we also met in the previous installments, but always hung in the background, his huge glasses not giving anything away. Unlike the other characters in the movie, he knows firsthand about the corruption that has gone on – he has been involved with it since the beginning – but his conscience is finally catching up with him.

These characters are just the tip of the iceberg of the people that cycle through these three movies. There are many others – most memorably Martin Laws (Peter Mullen), a Reverend who always seems to be around, offering comfort and guidance to the victims of the crimes right before either the police of the newspapers appear on their doorstep.

The three movies are definitely part of a whole – and the cumulative impact of the three are much greater than anyone would have been – but they have been directed by three different men, who bring distinct visual styles to the films. In 1974, director Julian Jarrod seems to be heavily influenced by Martin Scorsese (there are direct visual references to both Taxi Driver and New York, New York), and creates a Yorkshire where it is always raining, unless its overcast and about to start. James Marsh, who directed the second installment, prefers bright, white lighting for the scenes indoors – the institutional setting of much of the movie is blinding, and inky, murky darkness for the scenes that happen at night, which is many of them. Finally, Anaud Tucker, who directed the third film 1983, is the only one who gives us any glimpse of sunshine – it’s always coming through windows in blinding streaks, appropriate, because in this installment, the corruption of the previous decade is finally seeing the light of day. The three films definitely do feel like a part of one series, but the directors make them distinctive from each other.

I think what the series essentially boils down to is the racist, and particularly the sexist attitudes of the men in the movie. Only one character has the guts to spell it all out, but Sean Bean’s John Dawson does in 1974, because he knows he is untouchable. When he says “Your Paddies, your wogs, your niggers, your fucking gyppos, the poofs, the perverts, even the bloody women. They’re all out to get what they can get. I tell you, soon there’ll be nowt left for us lot”, he isn’t just speaking for himself, but for pretty much all the male characters in the movie. For the two characters from the South, the challenge is to remain distant from this attitude, but we see signs of both Eddie and Peter falling victim to this feelings as their respective movies progress, which maybe why they almost seem to welcome their fate. They know where they are heading, and don’t like it at all.

All the women in the movie are chewed up and spat out in one way or another. If you’re lucky enough to not be killed, you end up either slowly going insane, or just raped and forgotten. There are many mothers without children, crying, trying to get someone, anyone, to listen to them but they are pretty much ignored. The men in this movie have no time for women, unless they are using them for their own personal goals.

The Red Riding Trilogy is epic in its scope, and yet minute in its details. Through the course of the movie, we get the entire picture of Yorkshire over the course of this decade, where few survived unscathed. Red Riding is the movie event of 2010 so far.

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