Messiah : Complete BBC Series 1 & 2  [DVD]
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Psychological thriller starring Ken Stott. Series 1's stories are "The First Killings" and "The Reckoning": after two horribly mutilated bodies are discovered, DCI Red Metcalfe is assigned to the case and plunged head-on into a nightmare. In series 2--"Vengeance Is Mine"--a man is buried alive, and Metcalfe must delve into a serial killer's psyche.
The on-screen infatuation with serial killers continues with Messiah, an absorbing, intelligent two-part BBC TV film that's a close cousin to David Fincher's Seven. Based on the novel by Boris Starling (who also co-wrote the screenplay), Messiah follows Detective Chief Inspector Red Metcalfe (Ken Stott) in tracking down someone with a Christ complex in a murder-case involving 12 "Apostles". A fine line is trod in presenting enough horror so as to intrigue, but not so much as to repel. Decapitations, cut out tongues and flayed skin are all masked in shadow or reflection. More attractive to the eye is a strong cast including Edward Woodward as the case's religious consultant and the keeper of Metcalfe's wayward brother and Michelle Forbes as his deaf wife (the actress learnt sign language in six days for the part). Other notables are Ron Berglas as the unemotional expositional pathologist and Gillian Taylforth as the beleaguered wife of corruptible copper Duncan (Neil Dudgeon). With fine supporting work from Frances Grey, Jamie Draven, Art Malik and 25,000 flies, you'll be racking your brains to spot the killer. Expect to jump several times along the way.
On the DVD: a 30-minute behind-the-scenes documentary interviews all the key cast members on their thoughts of grisly imagery and working with one another. The producers have plenty to say on the original script and use of red herrings to distract us. Writer Boris Starling is comically talked to while in make-up as one of the victims. A few (wisely) deleted scenes, text biographies of cast and crew and a gallery of 12 photos round out the extras package. --Paul Tonks --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Directed by Diarmuid Lawrence and co-adapted to screenplay by Boris Starling (from his own novel) and Lizzie Mickery, Messiah is formed in two parts. Firstly is The First Killings, then The Reckoning. Originally shown over two nights on BBC in 2001, Starling's source proves to be excellently unnerving stuff that translates very well to the screen. The comparisons with David Fincher's Se7en were inevitable, though a touch lazy and unfair given the different worlds they operate in, both cinematically as budgets, and as setting and protagonists portrayals.
Lawrence's film has so much going for it to make it an essential viewing for fans of serial killer based thrillers. It has all the key elements in place. The murders are most distressing, with us often having to witness the aftermath of the crimes and thus having to fill in the blanks (urgh). The mystery element is constantly strong, with the makers slowly dripping in clues as to the killer's motives, and then for the second half it becomes a race against time before the genuinely surprising reveal and denouement. The acting is first rate, with Stott (playing an interesting and unique hero), Jamie Draven and Michelle Forbes particularly impressive in tricky roles.
The investigative group dynamic is a troubled one, which adds spice to the investigation. Metcalfe has a stormy past that keeps rearing its head to affect his detecting, while his marriage to deaf Susan (Forbes) is coming increasingly under pressure, more so the deeper he gets into the case. DI Duncan Warren (Neil Dudgeon) has a gambling problem, at war with his ex-wife and fighting a losing battle to get quality time with his estranged son, and young pups D.S. Clifton (Draven) and D.S. Beauchamp (Frances Grey) have taken an inappropriate liking to each other. Into the mix is the gutter press and Art Malik's Boss Emerson is stomping around like a bear with a sore head.
Messiah is not without faults, one of the decisions taken by the killer just beggars belief, while there is one leap of faith (hrr hrr hrr) required to buy into the meticulous aspect of said killer's ultimate goal. But this is great skin itching stuff, a prestigious production that shows the better side of the BBC as Grand Guignol and British drama fuse together handsomely. 9/10
Ken is fabulous, and the supporting cast is superb. We have some great actors in the UK.
Ken's character, DI 'Red', has an unconvincing relationship with his errant brother, likewise with his deaf and dumb wife. One can imagine the BBC's writers considering it 'PC' to include a deaf and dumb (very beautiful) character as his wife but it appears contrived. Exchanges between them are odd. It's hard to be dramatic while using sign language.
Messiah One: 'the killer thinks he is Christ', Ken reveals in an epiphany! but how does he know this? because the murderer is killing his Apostles! but why would Christ kill his own beloved brother Christians? It all makes no sense. The story is, dare I say it, Dan Brownesque: full of religious imagery and myth but bereft of logic or motive.
Messiah Two: There is one glaring flaw in the plot of this excellent thriller. The killer is revealed as a small, physically small person. But this same person has been dragging bodies about including suspending a woman and tying her to a ladder down a drain. This would require massive strength! The killer could never have 'done it'. Also the killer knows things about the victims that even their nearest and dearest do not know, it's all very incredible!
Despite the flawed story line (and like many crime stories there are far too many characters especially all the victims of old crimes) the acting and production carry it off.
The cinematography, sound and acting are just fabulous!
Update. So good, so memorable, that I watched it again a year later, but I found another flaw in the story...MOTIVE!
Detective 'Red' locks up a colleague for the murders because his DNA was found on a body...but DNA is easily planted and what could possibly be the MOTIVE?
No one kills ten men in a serial killing spree that is highly symbolic without a reason, a motive.
Red herrings are one thing but they must be credible.
Great entertainment tho'! and terrific acting and drama. JP :)
The second story is also to a very high standard. I struggle slightly more with the names, which made me think that the writing and direction in the first obviously overcame this, but many television programmes unintentionally alienate the viewer with character names and references. But that aside it too is a very very good piece of writing and a first rate piece of thought-provoking drama.
I did not see these at the time, but felt I should watch them. 6 hours of my weekend gone, but very well spent and a series that I will never forget as there is so much to reflect on ultimately due to such intelligent writing.
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