Top positive review
Wow ! An Intense, Original and Intoxicating TV Drama - Excellent on DVD
4 August 2017
Well, it is with some difficulty that I'm going to write this review as, having just finished watching this 1st 'Season' of this relatively recent TV drama, I'm still reeling from the effect but spurred-on by the overwhelming and positive experience it was.
I can't remember exactly what attracted me to the 2015 first season of 'Mr Robot', but some reviews seemed positive enough and the seemingly novel subject-matter of the storyline interested me enough to give it a try; with so little on terrestrial TV enticing me, and having ditched satellite TV, I can be more selective/buy 2nd-hand discs more readily to 'fill the void' !
On release, 'Mr Robot' received critical acclaim and was nominated for/won multiple awards. I'm a bit behind, as Season 2 has already aired and as it has recently been renewed for a 3rd season I've some catching-up to do !
Despite not feeling able to properly outline the plot of this TV drama myself, I still feel able to state that the synopsis on the Amazon product webpage is essentially valid but a little inaccurate, potentially misleading and contains elements of 'spoilers'.
So, here's the 'official' synopsis from the back of the DVD box which I think is more pertinent :
"Cyber-security engineer by day and vigilante hacker by night, Elliot (Rami Malek, 'The Pacific') finds himself at a crossroads when the mysterious leader (Christian Slater) of an underground hacker group recruits him to destroy the firm he is paid to protect. Compelled by his personal beliefs, Elliot struggles to resist the chance to take down the multinational CEOs he believes are running (and ruining) the world."
You should also note that things occur largely in New York and it's surroundings and the '15' viewing certificate for 'strong violence, sex, sex references, drug use, strong language' - this is from the back of the DVD box, whereas (oddly !) the BBFC website has different details !
On DVD everything looks and sounds as good as you would expect of a modern release, but even more pleasing is that it is all so good in 'just' standard definition. It's also worth adding that there is a dominant, noteworthy and often powerful musical soundtrack which makes the most of the DD5.1 audio; for me, it's a bit of a 'throwback' to the musical style of 'Tangerine Dream' and the like - but that's no bad thing IMHO !!!
So, I cannot see why an 'upgrade' to Blu-ray would be worth it per se - BUT do note that the HD offering does include a UV copy....
Very soon after starting to watch the first episode I realised that this show was unusual and, thankfully had plot themes of a highly original nature - the overall feel is VERY dark and humourless, but for me the most significant elements are the central acting performances, 'cerebral' plot themes and that the intense screenplay doesn't 'spoonfeed' help with the story.
This is despite the fact that one can get the impression that explanation IS provided, as the lead character of Elliot (played supremely well by Rami Malek, who proved himself capable of playing 'odd' in 'The Pacific' !) often narrates his thoughts to us. HOWEVER, the programme is not filmed from his viewpoint so that usually occurs only when he appears - the rest of the time things play out as 'normal', with us witnessing events and only learning from what is portrayed/broadcast.
An additional factor which serves to confuse are the frequent periods of 'flashback', rarely flagged as such so you have to spot the clues to realise the scene is from the 'past'.
I like to be challenged by films/shows so, ultimately, the intensity and complicated nature of the screenplay/plot and 'action' in 'Mr Robot' is right up my street; whilst the content is (largely) dissimilar to the supreme viewing experience I had with the excellent 'True Detective' (Season 1 ONLY !), the result after watching is equally as good.
Having said that, due to those complexities (AND likely personal shortcomings !) I do feel that this show challenged me more and I was regularly struck with a feeling that I had either misunderstood something or missed something significant entirely, as though when reading a book you turn 2 pages instead of 1 and continue reading in ignorance OR the book has been compiled incorrectly with some of the pages mixed-up a little !
Irrespective of the reason, just as soon as I felt I was ever getting to grips with all the story specifics a twist or new revelation would muck things up, usually creating a new direction for my thoughts about things - or at the very least scotching an appreciable portion of what I THOUGHT I'd sorted out !
The action is obviously related heavily to IT, hacking and technical equipment in general BUT a knowledge of the intricacies is not required as whilst they might be the origin of most plot developments, it is the intention or result of the action that is the pertinent aspect and what also covers most of the dialogue concerning plans, present activity and any 'aftermath'.
Three additional elements of the story are just, if not more, significant : the persona of the characters, their relationships and how they interact.
Firstly, there are quite a few 'odd' personalities (including mental illness issues) and/or personality traits on show here, which drive most things but also make things something of a challenge to comprehend, but most importantly 'deal with'.
Make no mistake, as captivating as this show is those 'darkness' and humourless aspects I mentioned before are bolstered significantly by most characters being really quite unlikeable; the worst aspects of human behaviour are regularly on show with cruel, ruthless, violent, cold traits from people often devoid of compassion or an appreciation for others.
Most of the time it is clear who the 'baddies' are, but it is also quite possible that you will see unacceptable behaviour or attitudes from characters initially deemed as a 'goodie' - sometimes it's a matter of perception related to our own personal 'boundaries', other times it is incontestably bad.
As I mentioned before, there are twists but there are also a LOT of shocks, as you (for example) don't see an event 'coming' or think what you suspect might happen 'surely couldn't possibly happen' - BUT it does ! This means the show is also not without an element of sadness.....
[If you've seen the TV show 'Fargo', based on the Coen brothers film, then it might prepare you for those aspects - 'phasers' are also present here, similarly set to either 'stunning' or 'weird'...!]
The screenplay is the foundation for all of this, but clearly the quality of the acting performances are crucial. Rami Malek, the lead, once again plays a dysfunctional/disturbed character to great effect but the '2nd tier' of performances are just as accomplished - it is notable that the gender spread amongst them is about 50/50, but with males leaning towards the 'badness' end of the spectrum and females usually, but not always, the other way....
Martin Wallström deserves a special mention for portraying a character so flawed and despicable.
The production-values are very good and noteworthy for relying a lot on clearly 'real' locations and surroundings; the technical aspects of the plot don't need much in the way of CGI or equipment 'wizardry', just usually computer/tablet/phone screen graphics - so everything is well-founded in the real world.
Finally, the long periods of discussion, reflection or pulsating action (which isn't 'just' people tapping on computer keyboards) is embellished with that dominant musical soundtrack of, IMHO, an '80s style - it works to great effect.
I've attached a photo of the case back with all the disc info as Amazon omits it.
You will be able to see from that photo that there are disc extras, but they actually quite 'skimpy' - no commentaries, just deleted scenes and a final disc 'making of'/retrospective featurette.
Irrespective of how one might view the final moments of Season 1, as Season 2 has already aired and Season 3 is on the menu there is clearly more mileage to the 'Mr Robot' story. I for one am hooked and, just like the impressive and recently-watched (and reviewed) first season of the TV series 'Billions', I have computer keyboard prepared to snap them up on DVD when I feel that the time is right !