on 15 January 2008
There are television series and then there's "Foyle's War." If one had to choose a production that depicts what the Brits are best at, it's this show.
So what are they best at? In my opinion, it's a natural leaning towards understatement combined with a steady growth in suspense. Several plot lines are developed until the conclusion which always leaves you thinking about ethics and politics. Alfred Hitchcock was a master of it and so is Anthony Horowitz, Foyle's creator.
The action takes place during World War 11, mostly around the town of Hastings. Foyle is Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle who wants to contribute to the war effort. His duty is to solve crimes on the domestic front and he always introduces himself as "a police officer."
Sometimes the crimes are political and other times they appear petty but actually, they are always very crucial because society has to function ethically during the war or there's no point in fighting for values that are not respected. A chaotic and lawless society would mean that the enemy has won.
That is Christopher Foyle's credo. Profiteers, traitors and looters will not be tolerated. It's almost like the zero tolerance policy that the city of New York adopted a few years ago when crime statistics were out of control.
In Foyle's War one is always conscious of the common good. There is a recurring theme of the need for all Brits to be treated as equals and Foyle uses this approach when it comes to crimes committed by the aristocracy. He is not impressed by status.
That does not mean that important people don't get away with misdemeanours and even murder, but as Foyle says he will come after them when the war is over. And we believe him, so strong is his moral code.
I absolutely love the way Horowitz shows two sides of a story. Nothing is simple or inevitable and the viewer is not insulted by too much explanation.
Basically, "Foyle's War" is a thinking person's detective story in which historical events play a crucial part. For example, in one episode there is a reference to Dunkirk with a description of what really went on there and how ordinary people went over to Dunkirk in the flimsiest of vessels to rescue their soldiers. It will make you cry because of the powerful emotions that are repressed by the fishermen. It's a million times more effective than that tedious Dunkirk episode in the film "Atonement."
As for the cast, there is Michael Kitchen in the role of Foyle. His portrayal is amazing. One slight twitch of his lips is all that's required to convey the deepest of emotions. A shrug, a raising of the eyebrows, even a moment of silence, says it all.
And it's his acting style that leaves an imprint on the other actors. His driver, Samantha Stewart, who is a little more emotional than her boss, is still the epitome of British stoicism and dedication with a touch of charming femininity. She is perfect in the role. Honeysuckle Weeks is spunky yet vulnerable in the portrayal of Samantha.
Paul Milner (played by Anthony Howell) is also perfect casting. He is Foyle's assistant who has been wounded in action in Norway and so has to return to home duties. His private life is a disaster because of his injury and this makes for interesting personal situations.
This is the trio of principal characters who will lead the audience from August 1940 to the end of the war in 1945. The final series is yet to be shown and I am certainly looking forward to it. As a matter of fact, I couldn't wait for it to be shown on Australian TV so I have pre-ordered it and hope it arrives soon.
Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen) is a British cop based in the southern part of England. It's Spring, 1940. Britain, woefully unprepared, is at war with Germany. Foyle is a taciturn man, even sad. He has lost his wife and his only child has signed up with the Royal Air Force and is a fighter pilot. Foyle knows his son is going to be at high risk every time he takes off. Foyle desperately wants to join up, too, but is told by his superiors that his talents are far better utilized where he is. Foyle is a dedicated, no-nonsense cop. He's respectful to authority and the rich, but he isn't intimidated. If a person has committed a crime, especially one which could damage Britain's war effort, Foyle will never let up until the crime is solved and justice -- by the book -- is done.
This series is effective for several reasons. The production values are high. A great deal of effort has been placed in evoking the look and style of England at the start of WWII. The cast which backs up Kitchen is first rate. These include the ongoing characters of Samantha Stewart played by Honeysuckle Weeks (a great name) as Foyle's driver. Stewart is an energetic, curious young woman, brave when she needs to be, who gradually earns Foyle's respect. Paul Milner is played by Anthony Howell. Milner, who lost a leg in the Norway campaign, is assigned to Foyle as his detective sergeant. Milner has to build back his confidence and Foyle can't give him much time to do so. Showing up in one-time roles are such accomplished actors as Robert Hardy, Charles Dance, Edward Fox, Cheryl Campbell, John Shrapnel and Rosamund Pike.
Most of all, the series works so well because of Michael Kitchen and the mysteries themselves, all of which are drawn from issues of the early war period. Kitchen is an excellent, subtle, versatile actor whose long career includes the amusing and reprehensibly egoistic doctor in Reckless, the well-intentioned but naive king utterly outmaneuvered by Francis Urquhart in To Play the King and the unprincipled charlatan who finds himself facing Inspector Morse. Inspector Foyle is a serious, thoughtful man of high principles, who keeps most of his deepest feelings to himself but who is not without a sense of wry humor. Kitchen captures the man perfectly. As for the stories in season one, they range from the treatment of conscientious objectors and anti-German prejudice, theft in high places and a threat to his son, interned German prisoners-of-war and high-placed Nazi sympathizers. The series was conceived and is researched and written by Anthony Horowitz, who consistently turns out literate and complex scripts.
Each story is approximately 1' 40" long. The four DVDs in the set have excellent pictures and audio.
Perhaps it's my affection for England - a love that makes my wife roll her eyes - that causes me to have a higher regard for BBC and ITV small screen productions than those of America, which seem so crass in comparison. So many of the former seem uncommonly funny, intelligent, or both. FOYLE'S WAR is an uncommonly intelligent detective drama, a period piece set on England's south coast in 1940. And, to keep the record straight, my wife's dedication to this series is at least as pronounced as mine, if not more so.
Michael Kitchen is Detective Inspector Christopher Foyle, who's ordered to remain at his post as homicide investigator for Hastings and its environs; he'd much rather be doing his bit for King and Empire fighting the Nazis across the Channel. Indeed, his son is a flying officer with the RAF. The two other series regulars are Samantha "Sam" Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks), the Women's Royal Army Corps enlistee assigned as his driver, and Paul Milner (Anthony Howell), Foyle's assistant inspector recently returned to home front duty after being wounded with the Army during the disastrous British invasion of Norway.
In Series One,the murders occur in contexts that include sexual harassment, anti-semitism, police brutality, local jingoism, sabotage, and conscientious objection - all set against a backdrop of Luftwaffe bombing raids and the fear of imminent amphibious invasion by the German Wehrmacht.
The character of Foyle - intelligent, perceptive, reserved, compassionate, wounded by his wife's recent death, worried for his son's safety - epitomizes the phrase "still waters run deep." The viewer embarks into each episode wondering what new layer of Foyle's persona will be revealed. (Not to give too much away, but I've just seen the first episode of Series Two, which gives evidence of an old and tragic love affair involving Foyle and a now-married gentlewoman.) And the evolution of the relationship between Foyle and the occasionally cheeky Sam is one of the major delights of the miniseries as the latter proves she's smart, intuitive, and potentially more useful than just a lowly chauffeur.
The various murders investigated by the trio are never straightforward, but involve clever plot twists and hidden motives, the solutions to which silently gestate in the Inspector's mind before being revealed at the end of the story, much like the Sherlock Holmes mysteries of old.
There are, of course, uneven moments to Series One which allow for only four stars. I trust, as the show matures, that it will only get better. The areas that needs no improvement are the period costuming, props and sets, all of which are superbly done and a delight to an Anglophile.
on 18 May 2010
Classic viewing, Michael Kitchen's depiction of Foyle in particular is a fantastic performance. He conveys so much about the character in a gesture or look. The period details such as classic cars etc. make this a very atmospheric series. Only minor quibble, as mentioned by another reviewer, is the absence of subtitles which might make it difficult for some to fully enjoy the episodes.
on 8 February 2009
Foyle's war is a serie brilliantly conceived. Time has gone by and people tend to forget that the UK during World War II was not the postcard it became afterwards. Some liked the Nazis, others wanted to benefit from the war, social harmony was sometimes limited, as was the fight against racism. Foyle's police inquiries deal also with these facts, with a lot of soft suggestions. The actors are also brilliant, and the photography too.
The only problem comes from the lack of subtitles. It is often heard that the UK is a lighthouse of globalization. One would not say it after seeing how little it does for the export of its cultural products. This is also commercially stupid since a growing part of the population in Europe suffers from hearing problems.
FOYLES WAR SERIES ONE - COMPLETE R2 DVD 2002
FOYLE'S WAR has got to be one of the best of the period detectives series produced for British television, certainly during the last few years, and to my mind ranks along side pre-war Poirot and post-war Inspector Gently. The period drama is something that British producers do exceedingly well and Foyle is no exception. I only managed to catch a couple of episodes of the early series and so purchased the DVDs as soon as they were released and have just re-visited the whole run up to date over a couple of weeks. I think they are even more impressive when all 25 episodes are viewed together.
Michael Kitchen, Anthony Howell and Honeysuckle Weeks plus the other regular members of the cast are perfect castings and the series has attracted the cream of British television actors. The Anthony Horowitz scripts are excellent and the background history well researched and carefully filmed to prevent unnecessary glaring continuity errors, locations, dress and military uniforms all spot on. The only nit-pickers fault that I could come-up with was the use of incorrect Spitfire marks in the early episodes, but it is understandable as there are very few airworthy survivors and I would much rather see, and hear, a real 'Spit' in flight than a CGI.
The four episodes in the first season set the tone of the whole series to come, dealing not just with mundane police affairs but with those special issues of the war years, in The German Woman focuses on the anti-German paranoia in 1940 and the internment of German speaking aliens in Britain and the difficulty facing injured servicemen facing a return to civilian life. In The White Feather Foyle investigates a murder involving the British Fascist Movement, and in 'A Lesson in Murder Foyle is called in after a conscientious objector dies in police custody and a judge is threatened by an unknown party. Eagle Day has Foyle's son Andrew played by Julian Ovenden, a pilot with the RAF, helping to investigate a suspicious situation at a nearby radar base where he is flying special duty ops.
Anybody who has not viewed this series and likes detective or period dramas should watch them, preferably from the beginning. A must for the collection of any crime or detective fan.
Firstly, I have to confess that I have found the whole series of "Foyle's War" highly addictive !
Thus far I have purchased the first three series as individual DVD sets. I am about to purchase series four.
I missed "Foyle's War" when broadcast. In a way I am glad that I did, since with the DVD's you aren't troubled by annoying advertising breaks.
What makes this series so absorbing ?
Well, firstly, the acting is superb, especially those portraying the main characters; Michael Kitchen, Anthony Howell and Honeysuckle Weeks (what a great name !)
Michael Kitchen portrays the enigmatic, humane and thoughtful DCS Foyle, superbly. "Straight as a dye", and resolute in his pursuit of criminals, Foyle refuses to be bullied by his superior officers or "social betters" who, all too often, have their own "bent" personal agendas.
Anthony Howell portays Sgt Milner, who has been invalided out of the military following the loss of one of his legs in action at Narvik. Milner is highly loyal to Foyle who rescued him from self-pity and despair following his injury.
That said,on more than occasion Milner suffers a "fall from grace" in his relationship with Foyle. The resulting tension between the two characters is a critical ingredient of the plots of the episodes in question. However, Milner recovers from these situations, learns the errors of his ways, makes amends with and recovers his relationship with Foyle. Milner also has to face up to the loss of his wife, who left him since he is now "less of a man" given the loss of his leg. I guess this type of marital break up must have frequently happened in real life ?
Honeysuckle Weeks portrays Foyle's assigned army driver, Samanatha Stewart. Stewart is the daughter of a vicar. She is invariably cheerful and always able to see the bright side of things. Stewart provides the series with the light relief and humour "as a foil to Foyle", whose enigmatic and somewhat sad manner would seem almost dour in the absence of the Stewart character.
The development of these three main characters advances through each episode in a very enjoyable manner.
Then of course there is the period setting. Born just after the war I cannot personally vouch that this is wholly authentic, but the attention to detail (supported in an advisory capacity by the Imperial War Museum) is, in my best judgement, absolutely first-rate. (Or even "spiffing", to use period vernacular !).
Last, but by no means least, we have the plot of each episode. Each of these are complete stories in their own right. Anthony Horowitz has cunningly used real key events in WW2 as the backdrop to each episode. And, as is often the case, "truth is stranger than fiction". So we have an incompetent SOE trying to cover up errors that cause their agents to be killed; German agents sent to England to kill captured German electronic specialists and MoD civilian contractors more intent on defrauding the government than helping to win the war.
Each episode commences with a set of apparently unrelated action sequences that lead to the pivotal crime, thereby leaving the viewer the entertaining puzzle of how these apparently disjointed events fit together, make sense and point to the real culprit.
A very entertaining and highly recommended series !
on 15 September 2007
I bought this series and series 2 for my father and mother to watch away on holiday, but while the series content itself is excellent and stories varied and interesting, the dvd box set is limited because there are no subtitles which is especially tough on my mother who is hard of hearing. I think this is a huge oversight on the bbc's part hence my award of a mere 3 stars for what is a series deserving of 5 stars.
on 23 August 2012
I've seen these DVD's around libraries and bookshops for years and always thought 'Not for me.' Then out of sheer desperation I took two home with me from the library (the only other option on the shelves being vampire epics). Well, after a 'wait and see' approach to the first episode I was completely hooked. It took a will of steel not to pay full price (over $40) for Series One in an Australian shop this afternoon. But now I'm about to order two series and when they arrive...I will not leave the house nor answer the phone. It's more than just an addictive drama. It actually says something about the values of World War Two and the people who embodied those values. Beautifully understood and performed by all three stars.
on 1 October 2008
We are going on a journey. Sam (Honeysuckle Weeks) is at the wheel whilst Foyle (Michael Kitchen) sits and ponders on aspects of the case. Until he finds the answers we are all kept in suspense. Now, there are those who interrupt you as you sit glued to the box watching a favourite detective series, with those words you dread the most "I think it was him" "It was him, it's got to be him" Your concentration is lost and you've said "Be quiet" more times than you remember. Well, relax this is unlikely to happen with Foyle's War. The script and plots are so good they keep you guessing right to the end. Like an enormous jigsaw puzzle the pieces have been emptied on the table and only Foyle knows how they all fit together and during the process we are taken back in time to see life as it was in those early days of WW2. There are not enough stars in the Amazon ratings to rate this series in my opinion. Even 10 stars would not be enough!