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4.3 out of 5 stars31
4.3 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 18 January 2010
In some ways, the BBC are onto a hiding to nothing by adapting the Kurt Wallander novels of Henning Mankell. Firstly there are the afficiandos of the books who might be offended, then there are the lovers of the swedish adaptations that appear on BBC Four. However, thanks to Kanneth Branagh's brilliant performances, I think they have delivered in this second series, probably more than the first.

Branagh is astonishing. His acting is pitch perfect throughout the three episodes. By the last one in this series - The Fifth Woman - you almost feel like smashing through your screen to give him a hug. It's not just that he does misery well - and these shows are bleak, both in subject matter and style - but he also manages to get across the sudden bursts of hope that are almost more painful than the agony. The most impressive moment was when he learns of the death of a close relative. His face, his manner, his tone were all spot-on. It made me think of the moment when I heard about the death of the same person in my life; a jolting, uncomfortable moment for me, but one that left me pointing at the TV and telling my kids, solemnly, that's exactly what it's like.

The other pluses of the show are a strong supporting cast; superb locations; a haunting title track and his mobile phone ring tone - which just about undercuts all the wintry despair every time it trills.

I have read all three novels that these adaptations were based on and, yes, some elements of the books gets lost. I found this especially in 'Faceless Killers' where Wallander - in the book - is an utterly compelling train wreck, but Branagh more than compensates for the deviations and deletions from the source material in his performance. The man is Kurt Wallander.

I saw all of these on the telly, but I will be buying this set so I can put it next to those other Branagh masterclasses on my DVD shelf - Shackleton, Conspiracy and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
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on 18 January 2010
There are plenty of police dramas in the world already, but Wallander is a welcome addition to the canon. It is set in Sweden, and although it features an all-British cast the bleak rural Swedish landscape becomes a character in it's own right. Kenneth Branagh has won all the accolades going over the course of his career, but personally I've never seen him better. He creates a believable, battered centre to the stories featured and his performance alone is worth the price of this dvd. The plots develop slowly, engrossing and involving just the same. A fantastic series, one of the best new detective dramas to appear on British screens for some considerable time. I have never seen the Swedish version - some people swear that it's better, although I don't know whether that's to do with a kind of one-up-man-ship or not. What I can do is highly recommend the English version.
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on 19 February 2012
If one does not compare it to the original series the interpretation with Brannagh is quite okay. Brannagh himself as Wallander is brilliant and convincing as always, although the other actors (with exception of his father)let him down a bit. Apart from Wallander there is no one who fascinates or supports his role, like I said with the exception of his dementing father. But this is not the weak point of the series. The weak point is that it is over-dramatized. Each moment and each discussion is full of emotion, worried glanzes and mental torment. After a while it gets on ones nerve. It is tiring and often unnecessary. The strong point of the original Wallander-series is the casual way in which the actors behave. In this interpretation however there is too much drama, too much desperation, until the viewer is as tired and exhausted as Wallander himself, who never seems to sleep and always seems to be close to a nervous breakdown. That has nothing to do with Brannaghs acting, with this man one simply can't go wrong, but the script is weak at best. The stories are far-fetched and thin.

All in all not bad, but too much drama. Couldn't help thinking of Hamlet from time to time...
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A follow-up series can sometimes disappoint. This one doesn't. If anything, these three feature-length mini-films are better than the first series. They are of a quality which you rarely find in cinematic movies, never mind on made-for-TV dramas.
Each episode is a meticulously produced 90-minute self-contained story, set in southern Sweden, where Kurt Wallender (played by Kenneth Branagh) investigates a variety of violent and emotionally charged murders. The crimes serve more as a back-drop for the evolution and transition of Wallender's character, however. These are three films about a man sliding away from society, whose grip on normal life becomes increasingly tenuous following divorce, estrangement from his daughter, the sudden collapse of his professional life in absolute violence, and the desperate sadness of his father's decline. This is not cheerful viewing, but it is utterly compelling.
There will be countless people who don't like this interpretation of Wallender, who prefer the books or the earlier Swedish TV series. For me, it's not a competition and liking one or all does not affect my enjoyment of the others. Judging the BBC's version of Wallender for its rendition of high-class, intelligent crime drama and ignoring any other criteria then it's hard not to give it the full five stars.

The filming is gorgeous and makes the most of the beautiful, bleak landscape through which roams Wallender's fragmented spirit. The script and dialogue is extremely polished, and Branagh gives a stunning performance in each episode - the exchanges with Wallender's father, played David Warner, are especially poignant and frustrating.
The director also deserves a huge nod for pulling together a superb cast which interacts in a realistic and nuanced manner. For instance, in one scene Wallender returns to the squad room after a long absence. He's very much an outsider, and stands close to the door, arms folded for much of the encounter. As the episode progresses and he re-integrates into the team, so he moves further into the room, sits down at the table, and eventually leads the discussion again.
In another frightening insight into modern life, Wallender's return to society is encapsulated by the moment when his car deigns to fire up after months of neglect. Without the Volvo he has no independence, no communications, no method of transport. Had that car not started then his entirely fragile id might have disintegrated on the spot. This kind of subtle observation goes way beyond the average TV crime drama, and it's one of the reasons I'm raving about this series.
I'll be watching it several times.

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on 2 March 2015
Superb series: took a while for Brannagh's portrayal of fractured detective Kurt Wallander to settle with me, but the acting is excellent and it really captures the atmosphere is southern Sweden. The camerawork adds real depth to the action, verging between documentary and brilliantly directed and focused extreme close ups. I am very well acquainted with both of the Swedish to series and films as well as the books and this is all of those placed within an English eye. It works and works very well.
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on 16 March 2010
Unlike the Swedish Wallander series the English version follows Mankell's novels very closely. If you have read the books then this series brings them to life vividly. The only shortcoming that I see is that the cast are rather too young to play the older and more interesting characters of the books. The Swedish version is much better at casting older actors for these roles but I think that there is a mindset in British TV that viewers only want to watch younger actors. The Swedish versions seem much more sophisticated in comparison but may not be to everyone's taste and their stories are only based on the characters and not the novels.
Having said all that Branagh's Wallander is a mesmerising performance and this is television of the highest quality.
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on 2 April 2010
The haunting opening song and the landscape sets the mood for these
well crafted stories. Growing up in Minnesota I can relate to the somber
Nordic mind set, these scenes are of washed out colors, drably clothed
detectives, sloppy and unkept almost as much as Wallander. The unlaughing
policemen with so much inner angst is perfectly played by Branagh. His actions
are minimal but you feel his inner workings, this is a complicated human being,
and well worth watching.

He is not your typical hero, he steps into the deep end of crime with confidence of his
policing skills. He is very good and all his comrades know it, if only his personel
life was the same.

This is excellient television on so many levels.
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on 18 January 2010
Kenneth Branagh has brought the man to life - much as I enjoy the Swedish version it lacks the grittiness of the man as described by Henning Mankell, his sometime despair, his temper, his personal devils. Wallender is a man who forgets to change his shirt (and underpants!), to shave and eat and forgets his loved ones when he is absorbed and tormented by a case and suffers tremendous guilt as a consequence and Kenneth brings this all out in amazing and agonising detail. The filming is bleak to match the stories but superb. These dvds will be ranked with my favourites of all time.
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Presented here on two discs are all three episodes of the second series for UK TV of Wallander, starring Kenneth Brannagh as the Swedish detective with more character flaws and personal problems than most.

Wallander was always going to be a tough sell to a British audience. The books are dark, moody and pretty depressing. I was glad to see that this first series was well enough received to lead to a second, and I sincerely hope a third is on its way.

The series follows the life of Kurt Wallander, as he struggles to cope with weird murders in his provincial hometown, Ystad. On top of his work troubles, he has an incredibly difficult private life - divorced, difficult relationship with troubled daughter and equally difficult relationship with his artist father, who suffers from Alzheimer's and never approved of Kurt's decision to join the police. Not exactly happy families!

Wallander is played exceptionally well by Branagh. Having read the books he is exactly as I picture the detective in my head. But this is only part of the joy of the production. There are some great supporting actors, notably David Warner as Wallander Snr and Richard McCabe as Nyberg. The director really has a feel for the pace of the books, and an eye for the scenery. There is a feeling that every shot is carefully composed and framed, and the natural beauty of Sweden is used to good effect. The end result is engrossing, intricately plotted, moody drama of the highest order. It's not the sort of thing you'd want to watch on a summer's day though, it is suited for the cold dark winter nights. If I had a slight quibble it would be that these aren't as good as the books, but then, you have to lose a lot to condense a 300 pg book into a 90 minute film, and the adapters have done very well at this, capturing most of the essence.

This set contains the three episodes from the second series, The Faceless Killers, The Man Who Smiled and The Fifth Woman. There are also a host of extras concerning the making of the series, and how the distinctive `look' was achieved, which are quite interesting. There are two discs in a standard DVD case. The picture is 16:9 widescreen with a nice 5.1 soundtrack. The only subtitles are in English.

A set well worth getting for any lover of thoughtful drama and grisly murders.
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Set in a grey-ish downbeat Swedish small town, these stories follow a dual narrative of Wallender's own troubled life set against his investigations. In cliched fashion he's divorced, has troubled relationships with his daughter and family, and partly works obsessively to avoid deadling with his personal problems. But, as is the case in these sorts of stories, all his colleagues love him and are protective of him, when in real life he'd be the colleague from hell...

The mysteries themselves exploit the small-town feel of Sweden which is a nice change from New York and other big cities. Branagh and the acting generally is excellent, as is the filming. But I can't help feeling that the whole production is just a tad self-conscious and arty, with the melancholy feel played up endlessly.

I felt that 'Faceless Killers' is particularly contrived and pointed so that when the main plot is about neo-Nazis and racism, Wallender's daughter has to be given a 'foreign' boyfriend just to make the issue personal to him.

So good escapist entertainment, but best avoid if you're feeling even the slightest bit depressed.
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